A number of Christ-followers, including myself, have looked at Christmas as the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. That view is supported in Western culture with the emphasis on manger scenes featuring a beautiful, helpless baby. Certainly the reminder of what Jesus did for mankind in leaving His glory in Heaven to dwell with us and give His life for the salvation of the world is cause to celebrate. But is that truly what we celebrate, or is it really more like a birthday?
Birthdays are a once-a-year celebration highlighting the life of an individual in coming to another year. For centenarians like my great aunt, it is the wondrous acknowledgment of living well and long. For my grandbabies, it is growth to the next stage with all the potential for the coming year. In both cases, and for everyone in-between, it is a day of recognition – perhaps with a party – and then it’s gone.
Realistically, isn’t that what happens with Christmas also? There is great build-up to the party day, complete with decorations, food, and presents, but after the day, the partyers go home, the decorations come down, and life resumes as usual. Shouldn’t Christmas be more than that?
In our minds, birthdays mark an individual’s presence in time; that is part of what we’re celebrating. But Jesus was present with God the Father before time, and currently lives outside of time, even though He intersected our physical world at just the right time (Romans 5:6). So, in the sense that an individual’s birthday marks present time, the Jesus of Christmas is not a baby, but sits on a throne at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20-22) The Apostle John who was given a revelation of Jesus in Heaven didn’t recognize Him: “’like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters… and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:13-15)
Although we can’t physically see or touch what exists in Heaven, it is nevertheless present tense reality, and testified to by Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. It is He Who quickens our hearts to let us know there is so much more. So what is the Spirit of God saying to believers about Christmas? If we are truly celebrating Jesus, then where is the heart evidence that comes in encountering the present tense Jesus? Does it last for a day, or a season, or is it impacting enough to illicit life-time change? I suppose time will tell.