Christmas is when God came down the stairs of heaven with a baby in His arms. R. Eugene Sterner
Christmas - it’s a crazy time of year. Life cranks up to warp speed, only to slow down to the leisurely crawl of lazy summer days, cricket on the TV (what fun that is this year!) and leftover ham sandwiches. Unless of course you work in retail or the like, which unfortunately means warp speed is your life for a while yet. In all the lurking in shopping centre car parks desperate for a space, over-indulgent meals and slothful, sunburned days, it’s easy to forget that 2000 years ago time didn’t just slow down for a moment; in some ways it stood still.
At the heart of the Christian story is the conviction that at a very particular moment in time – just the right time in fact- God wrapped himself in frail and vulnerable human form as an expression of divine favour towards humanity. That’s you and me – us. Was this simply some cosmic Grand Gesture? No. The very familiarity of the Christmas Story can dull for us the meaning that’s at its heart, a meaning in many ways more unbelievable than the nativity miracles of virgin birth, heavenly choirs and wandering stars.
More than a Grand Gesture, Christmas is a Decisive Act; a Divine Intervention if you like. Into a sin-stained, broken and radically imperfect world God expressed himself in the form of his radically perfect Son, one both fully human and fully divine. God chose willingly not to remain aloof from his creation, but to identity with our world through full and complete immersion in it. But Christmas isn’t just about divine identification with us but, more importantly, divine salvation for us.
The two great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter are inextricably linked. The Bethlehem cradle makes no sense without the Golgotha cross. Through his perfect life AND sacrificial death, Jesus liberates us from sin and consequential death. On the cross, Jesus absorbed into his perfection our imperfection. Ultimately our freedom is the gift of his perfection for our imperfection, a beautiful exchange possible only by grace, and made by faith. And who the Son sets free, is free indeed. Four hundred years after the first Christmas, a church father succinctly summarised the real meaning of Christmas thus...
He became what we are that he might make us what he is. Saint Athanasius