Last night Hanukkah began. This morning we celebrate the birth of Christ even though we know Christ was not born on December 25th. Both are celebrations of a great victory of light over darkness & both are a time of coming together with family & community but the focus too often shifts from Christ to too much food & expensive gifts & we know this is a time when alcohol fueled violence increases & for many, many people it is a time of loneliness, isolation & great sadness. I understand. I buried my youngest brother just a week or so before Christmas. For many others, & my youngest daughter is one, there is nothing quite like the glitz & sparkle & anticipation of Christmas.
There are some truths I can tell you. God loves celebrations. He invented them. It was His idea to have the *moed*, special times of celebration when His people were to come apart & spend some quality time with Him. Jesus loved celebrations. His first miracle was at a wedding. He was accused of being a wine bibber & a glutton [Luke 7:34] & you don’t get accused of such things by staying home & being sombre!
I also happen to know Jesus acknowledged Hanukkah ~ by one of its other names, Feast of Dedication. [John 10:22] It was at Hanukkah that the Pharisees demanded, If you are the Christ, Tell us plainly.
We often hear Christians draw the analogy between Christ’s birth as the Father’s gift to a fallen world & the giving of gifts to each other & there is some truth to that but there is so much more to the story.
Philippians 2:7/8 says: Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross.
I cannot imagine ~ & I have tried! What it meant for the God of the universe to lay aside His glory & place himself at the mercy of mere humans as a baby whose every need was dependant on another. The God who spoke a word & separated the light from the darkness, who could call upon legions of angels to do His every bidding, who raised the dead, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, confined within a womb, absolutely helpless.
James 1:17 says: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Jesus was the perfect lamb without spot or blemish, slain from the foundation of the world. Christmas is about one thing, & one thing only: This is the point in time wherein God entered into man’s dimension to accomplish one purpose, & one purpose only: to die that men might live.
I like babies. They are cute & cuddly & completely non~threatening but the thing about babies is that they grow up. Every parent knows they only have a set amount of time in which to train up a child. God had 30 years to train up His son that He might become the gift beyond all gifts to the nations of the world. He trained Him to be a slave. He trained Him to be a servant. He trained Him in obedience. When He was fully trained He was sent to the cross.
Christmas has always been about the cross. Without a birth there could not have been a death & a death was necessary. The wages of sin is death & all have fallen short of the glory of God. All of us were condemned under the law to death until Jesus took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. It is not the sort of gift you finding lying under a Christmas tree. It has no monetary value yet cost the giver His very heart’s blood.
If we followed the Jewish calendar Hanukkah & Christmas would fall together each year giving greater meaning to Jesus words in John 8:12 ~ "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." In Matthew 5:14 He says: “You are the light of the world.” Because one of the names for Hanukkah is Festival of Lights.
It is no coincidence that light surrounded the birth of Jesus: there was that star ~ & the heavenly host lighting up the night sky where shepherds watched their flocks. What He brought was a kingdom ruled by Light, a kingdom where the first became last & the last first, where those who ruled were the slaves of all.
So this year we are going to do things a little differently. I am going to hand out some coupons. As sons & daughters of the Light we are going to practise being that Light. I admit to having a head start on the rest of you but don’t let that deter you. On the first small coupons [& you should have one for each person here] write out a blessing over their life. It could be for health, finances, increase, wisdom ~ anything at all & before we take communion we will take a moment to speak those blessings over each other, a gift that costs nothing except some time & thought. To help you if you want something scriptural I have some sheets with biblical blessings listed. You can find them here:
The larger coupon is to take away. Think about someone in your family or community you would like to bless in a nonmonetary way & present the coupon to them to be redeemed at a suitable time.
Here is the blessing I chose for our church community this Christmas starting @ Deuteronomy 28:5