By most counts Christmas is over. Even Christian radio has stopped playing Christmas songs. In the marketplace green and red decorations are coming down and Valentine hearts are showing up. But if you are counting, we are still living in the twelve days of Christmas. It’s day ten. Liturgically, it is still Christmas season. And quite frankly, the 25th came and went much too fast this year.
As I lie awake in the middle of the night, with an active mind, I had a few lingering Christmas thoughts.
The best spiritual exercise of this Advent/Christmas season for me was memorizing John 1.1-18. Why this Bible text? Because it is one of the greatest passages on Christmas in the Scriptures! Wow! What a blessing to take it in deeply! I do all kinds of things in Advent to try to get Christmas to dwell richly in me—I go to concerts, Christmas Eve services, serve the needy, watch certain holiday movies, give surprise gifts. These all help “make the season merry and bright.” But the best part of Christmas 2010 for me was this simple spiritual exercise. Try it next Advent season. It will cause you to think deeply about the incarnation. I started with one verse, and then added another. I brought my verse sheet with me while working out, while driving, and even pulled it out during a sermon that was “going south.” (It saved that service for me!)
Okay, so here are some lingering thoughts from that text for the tenth day of Christmas. First, the big point of the prologue of John’s gospel is that God has spoken through his Word. In John 1.1 Christ is identified as the eternal word. But let the fact that God has spoken remind you to let his Word dwell richly in you this year. All kinds of Bible reading schedules have come out to help you (Bible Reading Plans). Since God is a talking God, listen to him. Let his Word ground you more than anything else in 2011. Let it be your ultimate text message of the year. And each time you read, remember to let the written Word (the Bible) lead you to the living Word (Jesus Christ).
Second, remember that Christ is the life and light of the human race. “In him was life and that life was the light of men,” says verse 4. Verse 8 picks up that same thought—“the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” What great words to remind us to treasure and pursue Christ this year as the source of true joy! No other gift of Christmas will carry sustaining pleasure. Truth is, we are already bored with the majority of our Christmas gifts of 2010. But there is something deep and lasting and satisfying about the joy that is found in him. John 1.12 tells us that we must personally receive this life and believe in his name. But the rest of John reminds us that we must “abide” in him.
Third, verse 14 tells us that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” or literally—“tented among us.” Or as The Message so helpfully puts paraphrases it—“moved into the neighborhood.” The Word was enfleshed. It brought the light and love of God vividly to where we live. It made that love concrete and real in the life of Christ, and ultimately in the sacrificial and atoning death of Christ for our sins. My point is, if Jesus did this for us, there is supposed to be a spillover effect in our lives. While his incarnation was an unrepeatable, one of a kind event, and while his death on the cross was a unique, singular redeeming act, there is something very applicable in verse 14 for us. That is, Christ followers are called to “flesh out” before people’s eyes the grace and truth of Christ. We are called to be his representatives all over the world, all through the year, in all that we do. People are supposed to see Christ in us.
Or put it this way, it’s 2011 and we have something to live for! No doubt it will be a crazy year. There will be all kinds of surprises. Some things will make us very afraid or worried. Other things will make us happy. Most things will be hum drum. But because of the incarnation of Christ, and because we are linked to him by a living faith, we have every reason to live life to the full and make 2011 count as his ambassadors.
May God bless you as you live in the light of the incarnation and let that light shine through your life.