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Title: Christmas - A Celebration of Christ
Date: 01-Nov-2016
Category: Features
Source/Author: By Anthony Rao
Description: A Reprint from Pelita Methodist Nov/Dec 1986

Christmas  — the mention of the word itself brings to one’s mind scenes of laughter, fun, enjoyment. It is that time of the year once again. The shops are out to woo people to spend, housewives are busy cleaning their homes and making cakes, the young are busy preparing to look their best, churches preparing various programmes, others wondering how to make ends meet having lost their jobs. The concerns are varied and many. But the main concern for everyone is the question: How do we celebrate? The question of why do we celebrate is often given secondary importance or just a brief thought. We believe that when we have a proper perspective of why we celebrate then the how we celebrate will fall into place. Christmas is a celebration of  Christ!

We celebrate by rejoicing
Christ is God’s way of saving men. In Christ, salvation becomes a reality. It is a reality because God can and does bring it about. Christ is God’s action in dealing with sin. Jesus shows that salvation comes from what God does and not from any human effort whatsoever. Men worn by hard labour and bowed under the burdens of life and sin are in no position to effect their own salvation. They are helpless in the face of ultimate issues. It was at this point of hopelessness that God in Christ breaks into human history to deliver man from his bondage. (Rom. 5:6). When God was born in human flesh, he did not come to tidy up a little, correct a few errors here, getting rid of some bad habits there and the like. He knew for a fact the man’s evil is deep-rooted. The whole set of life must be altered. Man was in no position to do anything. The remedy must be drastic — Jesus Christ, his own son. So we celebrate by rejoi- cing at these tremendous facts. We rejoice not because of what we achieved but because of what He did. We focus our attention on Him. Let us not make statements that we should not be merry, cook a nice meal, or invite our friends or when we do we must preach the gospel to them or wear nice clothes. These are small issues. Let us celebrate and rejoice because of what God has done and if we need the tinsel and the coloured lights to add colour to our celebrations let us do so. (Col. 2:16-23).

We celebrate by reflecting
Christmas portrays to us the character of God. The birth of Christ was no mere accident. The hand of God was in it. Jesus is the fulfillment of the purpose and promises of God. God is one whose words are true and He will fulfill what He has promised. Looking at Jesus tells us that our God in no mere tribal God but one who must be taken seriously. The birth of Jesus also portrays to us God’s gracious purpose declared as long ago as the days of the great patriarch and father of the people, Abraham, was now coming to its climax. Another aspect of God that is revealed to us is His tremendous constraining love. It was fundamental to Paul that God is the ‘God of love and peace’ (2 Cor. 13:11). And nothing is more basic for his thought on salvation than the idea that God’s love and not man’s merit is the root cause. Salvation rests on what God is and does and not on the acti- vity of what man does. For Paul it was very clear that God was in Christ and that the cross shows us the love of God. God indeed cares. He cares as much as that.

His love is poured out freely on His people not because they are worthy of that love but because He is a loving God. He loves because it is His nature to love and not because He finds in sinful man something that is attractive to Him. One may wonder how indeed are we to see His love and purposes in a world filled with sin and darkness. But it is in such a situation that we indeed see His love, power, purposes, etc. It is through all these that we learn the true character of God. For that is what the Scripture tells. In Romans 11:32 we read that God has bound all men over to disobedience so that we may have mercy on them all. Through all evil, will come forth His tremendous character. And the birth of Jesus confirms to us this tremendous character of our God. Let us think therefore of this God that we belong to and celebrate and acknowledge Him for who He is. Reflect and celebrate!

We celebrate by renewing

The birth of Jesus demands from us a people whose whole lifestyle is completely different from the world around it. For Jesus also came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. His demands are frightening. ‘Love thy enemies’. The lustful look breaks the command on adultery. The angry word breaks that on murder. Men are called to go the second mile. The reality of a man’s faith is shown by the way he lives. I am not prepared to see in good works the evidence of merely a human striving. Men could never do good works other than in the strength that God provides. ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one one another’ said Jesus. He called for the emphasis of the quality of life within the body of believers. But alas we have forgotten Him and the teaching of the New Testament and emphasised the wrong things. We challenge and rebuke people for not preaching the Gospel, for not being involved in evangelism, and what not. But what about the quality of life of the body of believers. It is a shame and in a terrible state. We exist as individuals and not as members of a body. Let us celebrate by renewing our fellowship to one another and to see ourselves as a body each responsible for the other. Let us not be people who exist for ourselves but like Jesus who came for others, let us be people for others. Renew and celebrate!

We celebrate by responding
‘Men of Galilee’, they said ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky. This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back...’ Indeed Jesus will return. But till he returns what do we do? Do we sit back and await his return.’Come let us walk in the light of the Lord’ says the prophet Isaiah. Let us rejoice and sing. Let us celebrate for He returns and comes in all His splendour. No matter what the situation we are in, we stand tall for we are His and He is coming for us. His people need not fear his coming but rather look forward with tremendous anticipation. Liberated from this world and this body we will be transformed and will be taken to be with Him to worship and adore Him. But till that day we live not defeated, dull, with sackcloth and ashes, mortifying our bodies but rather with joy and peace and love and hope and with a smile on our faces, so that the world around us wants to know of the hope that is within. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus, this same Jesus whose birthday we celebrate, is Lord. Not just by our lips, but also by our total life-style as individuals and as a body of believers.

Celebrate we should, celebrate we do, celebrate we must for Christmas is God’s doing and to Him belongs all praise and adoration. Let us not quarrel about the tinsel and the coloured lights and what we wear — all these have their place. But let us celebrate for Christmas is a celebration of Christ!

Pelita Methodist
Vol. 10 No. 8
Nov/Dec 1986

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