As the time to celebrate Jesus' birth draws near yet again this holiday season, I sat down to tea and Tabletalk magazine (an old Tabletalk mind you, but still Tabletalk none the less) and stumbled across a moving and significant article on the true meaning of what we call CHRISTMAS. Yes, this subject has been hashed and re-hashed over and over again, but what is the TRUE meaning of Christmas? Why do we even celebrate it as Christians? I loved this article by RC Sproul Jr on how the past has made the future glorious! But I will say no more--read for yourself :) I couldn't find it anywhere online at all, so now it's on here for the online world to see! May it be the better for it... Praise God for sending his Son in the form of a baby to a virgin in Bethlehem.
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE
by RC SPROUL JR
I must have been 10 years old when the anxiety hit me. I sat amidst the crumpled paper when it dawned on me, "It doesn't get any better than this." As I surveyed my gifts, however, I knew--the descent had already begun. Like a subtle heresy, clothes had slowly begun to creep into the mix. There were plenty of toys, new diversions that I was eager to get to. The joy of anticipation, however, was tempered by the clothes and the dreadful realization that next year there would be more clothes. The year after that still more clothes. Perhaps even--God help me--underwear. The spirit of Christmas future was haunting me.
I had adopted the creed of Sally Brown, Charlie's younger sister. Surveying her lengthy and demanding wish list to Santa Claus, Charlie Brown, the round-headed sage, chastised his sister for her greed. Her response? "All I want is what's coming to me, all I want is my fair share." Lucy van Pelt complained that she never got what she wanted: real estate. I wanted children's things, and I wanted to stay a child.
While I suffered from greed, my understanding of Christmas wasn't exclusively materialistic. I understood that we were celebrating an event. I understood that center-stage of the Christmas pageant was not the North Pole but the little town of Bethlehem.
It was an awe-inspiring thing to see how the world changed each Christmas season. In my small world of home, school, and television, the change was ubiquitous. All this because of what happened in a stable halfway across the world nearly two millenia ago.
Of course when the original event occurred, the world did not change. Those in the know were very few. All the world was busy tending to the business of keeping Caesar happy through the census. Jesus chose tax time to arrive, and only a few people noticed. The shepherds were tending to their flocks with care when they heard the Good News. The magi sought the child, following a star. It's the ultimate in dramatic irony. All Israel awaited a mighty king to restore their glory and throw off the shackles of Rome. What they got was a baby, long promised but unnoticed. That Christmas they received not a toy soldier but clothes, swaddling clothes enshrouding a tiny little newborn.
We, the audience of the future, know what happened. We know what became of that baby. This season, Advent, we look backward to that time before Christ so that we can experience looking forward to His birth. In the Advent season we seek to recreate the joy of anticipation.
The Spirit of Christmas future haunted Ebenezer Scrooge with the ultimate burden. He gave Scrooge a glimpse of what was to come. Down toward the grave the bony hand pointed mutely. That spirit was a false prophet. Because of Christmas past, Christmas future points no bony hand toward a grave but a living hand skyward. The Advent is coming again.
Christmas future is not about clothes or toys. It is not about secrets and subtle portents in the stars. It is not about a darling sweet baby. The Christmas which is to come will not be hearkened with angels singing in an our-of-the-way pasture. Like the shepherds we will all look heavenward, and we will be sore afraid. When He comes again all the world will know. He is coming again, this time in judgment. The mightiest of warriors, He will bear the sword, and not in vain.
But we, who are His sheep, who know His voice, look to that great day with great anticipation. We will be as children again, His children. He will remove all our burdens. He will wipe away every tear.
And we will receive no new clothes. For when He comes, we no longer need to stand clothed in His righteousness. When He comes in glory we too will be glorified, our sanctification complete. Like Adam before us, we will stand before Him, naked and unashamed. We will see Him as He is, and we will be like Him.
Never again will we look backward with anticipation. We will look forward, moving onward and upward. And each day we will be astounded to realize that it does get better than this, every day perfect, yet every day better than the last, on into eternity.
On that glorious day, wisdom is given to all. Not just three wise men but all men everywhere, sheep and goats, will bow the knee, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I was a foolish 10-year old, for there is every reason to look forward to Christmas. When we look to Christmas future, our joy outshines the reborn Scrooge. God bless us, one and all.