How God Celebrated the First Christmas
Christmas, if anything else, is about the giving of gifts to our loved ones. We criticize ourselves for our Americanized commercializing of Christmas (and we should). But we are only reenacting our Father’s giving in love. What we enact around the tree is little and miniscule, compared to how God “celebrated” the first Christmas. I’ll let Paul put it in his words, 1 Tim. 1:12-17, the centerpiece being verse 15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” But the way God saves sinners should delight, correct and strengthen us.
Paul says this about himself, because he was, before Christ, a triply-bad person (13): a blasphemer, persecutor, and “insolent opponent” of Jesus himself and his church. But God, in Christ, gave mercy (13b, 16a). What did this mercy look like? It came in a gift, v. 14: God gave Paul three things that obliterated the old Paul, that overcame his triple-evil of blasphemy, persecution and insolence: overflowing grace, faith and love. Yes, God gave grace, but along with that, He even gave faith, and love. How did he do it? Not by sprinkling spiritual pixie dust on Paul, and not by waiting for Paul to get his act together, but by giving Christ Jesus (“that are in Christ Jesus”, 14).
God glorifies himself (17), by being the Giver of all that we desire: eternal life over death, in soul-satisfying existence, because we are with the faithful Lover of our souls. Paul is our example: the question is not how bad your sins are, but how lavish and unbreakable is the love of God for His beloved children. He gives His children all they could desire, in Jesus. Therefore He deserves all glory. God’s pursuit of His own glory is not selfish; it is the most generous endeavor in the universe, because it brings infinitely unworthy sinners an infinitely valuable gift: Jesus.
My exhortation, to you and myself, is simple. What then are you living for, today? Is it his glory? Or something else? The pursuit of his glory and your good are not two different ends. They are the same, in Christ. Don’t desire his glory today? It’s probably because the miniscule trinkets of stuff and attention are sapping that desire. Make way, space for the sight of him. The immortal, invisible King clothes in himself in his Word, displays himself in answer to our prayers, as we seek him with others who feel the same.