Christmas Eve Reflection
As John Wesley, the great founder of the Methodist Church, was dying, the last words on his lips were: The best of all is God with us. Meaning the best message of all is the message that God took on flesh and he dwelt among us.
This of course is the core message that we celebrate at Christmas and so tonight I want to spend some time reflecting on that message with you.
You see, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the baby born in Bethlehem was fully God – that the one who flung planets into space made himself small and he entered a womb that he created. That is a profound mystery, but it is true. In John 1 we are told that Jesus – the word – was with God and the word was God and through him all things were created and without him nothing was made that has been made and then that strangest statement of all. John 1:14 the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
So the message of Christmas isn’t that God pick a baby to save the world. The message of Christmas is that God entered the world as a baby.
And where did God spend his first night on our planet. Not in a comfortable crib. Not in a palace surrounded by servants tending his every need. No the great God of this universe was born in a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem and then he was wrapped in rags and placed in a filthy feeding bowl for animals.
Now keep in mind that Jesus could have entered our world any way that he wanted. He could have entered into safety and security. It’s not like God was trying to find something better, but he couldn’t and so he did the best with what was he had. No the cave and the manger and the dirt floor were exactly what he wanted.
And so the question has to be asked: What is God saying by coming as he did? Obviously there are countless things that he is saying but this Christmas Eve I want to reflect on three messages from the manger.
The first message is this Our problem is more serious than we’re often willing to admit.
You and I can’t make our way back to God and so God had to come for us. You and I can’t fix what is broken in our world and so God had to come for us. Our problem is more serious than we’re often willing to admit. Our sinfulness is not going to go away with more effort and our stubbornness isn’t going to vanish with more information. We will not bring peace to this earth. As much as we want peace, we are not the solution. The solution is God entering our story.
And so on that first Christmas God was communicating something profound by being born in a destitute situation. He was communicating your problem is serious. You can’t and you won’t save yourself. You need God to enter your story.
Do you realize that? You need God to enter your story – your pain – your heartache – your suffering.
The second message that God was communicating by coming as he did is this: life is hard.
In the Bible we’re told that to save us Jesus had to be made like us in every respect. Meaning Jesus had to experience the harsh realities of this life. He had to suffer as we suffer. And it seems from Jesus’ very first night that he is intent on not missing a single moment of suffering.
And so Jesus – the high king of heaven – set aside his riches to be born on a dirt floor in the presence of a wearied mom and a bewildered dad. And then he was placed not in a comfortable crib but in a germ filled manger. Why?
Because the essence of life on this planet isn’t comfort and ease – it’s pain and suffering.
And in saying this I realize that not every day is difficult. Certainly, there are seasons when our health is strong and our relationships solid. But tragedy has a way of reminding us what is true: life is more like a germ filled manger than a comfortable crib.
So how do you keep your head when faced with the harsh realities of this life?
Go back to the manger. Look again at where Jesus laid his head and consider the reality that this newborn baby is God in the flesh. And when you do that you’ll see that there’s one more message for us to consider.
Yes, the coming of Jesus signals that our problem is serious. Yes, Jesus’ coming communicates that life is hard but the final message from the manger is meant to encourage us because the final message is that God came to save us.
You see the message of Christmas isn’t that God came to see how things were going for and then he saw that we were in trouble so he told us to try harder. No. The message of Christmas is that God came to save us.
And so what did the angel declare to the shepherds on that first Christmas: Do not fear….a Savior has been born. And a savior simply means one who rescues – one who delivers – a hero who sets us free.
This is undoubtably who Jesus is and this is unquestionably what he has done. He is a hero who came to save.
The author of Hebrews puts it like this: In the days of his flesh (meaning when Jesus came to this earth) he offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation.
Eternal Salvation. Isn’t that what you’re looking for? Isn’t that what you need? An eternal salvation. An eternal hope. A hero who is both willing and able to deliver you from all of your problems. A good God who can wipe away your tears? A powerful God who can restore what sin and Satan and death stole from you. Isn’t that what you’re looking for?
If so – he’s come. He might not have come like you thought he would but make no mistake about it – he has come and he’s willing to save you from whatever you face in your life.
You see the baby in the manger is God with us and he’s come to bring eternal salvation to those who simply believe in him.
And so the message of the manger is clear. Our problem is serious. Our world is broken. Life is hard and because of sin death is certain but God hasn’t left us alone. He has come to save those who trust him. And so this Christmas my prayer for you – my prayer for your family and your friends is pretty simple. My prayer is that you trust Jesus.
Do you remember John Wesley’s last words? The best of all is God with us. Meaning the best message of all is the message of Christmas – the message that God came to be with us – the message that God came to face what we face – to suffer as we suffer and to rescue us from what threatens to undo us.
And as John Wesley died with that on his lips – I pray that you live not just this Christmas but that you live your entire life with that in your heart. The best of all is God with us.