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A Simple Message for Complicated Christmas

December 20, 2023
single votive candle

Christmas can be complicated.

From the perspective of faith, we celebrate the birth of our long-awaited Savior and Messiah. For many of us, joyful anticipation fills our hearts as we look forward to tender moments with loved ones around the dinner table or at a candlelight service. Others are haunted by thoughts of empty chairs—resulting from broken relationships or the loss of loved ones to diseases or accidents. Some of us are afflicted by “all Christmas, all the time” radio stations and the compulsion to splurge on “perfect presents,” while others are more eager to string up garland and lights. For most of us, Christmas is complicated—a mix of joy, grief, hope, and some minor annoyances.

The theology of Christmas can feel a bit complicated as well. In Jesus of Nazareth, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh and was born of the virgin Mary. This is the incarnation—one person, Jesus Christ, with two natures, human and divine. The church has struggled to get this right. Disagreements about the incarnation inspired our three ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian). Even two of our Reformed confessions (Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession) speak at length of this great truth. We struggle with the incarnation in our own spirituality. Many people view Jesus either as a disembodied spirit or as a wise prophet and moral exemplar for the ages. But the Bible teaches that he not only died but also rose again and ascended physically into heaven, where he now reigns at the Father’s right hand.

While Christmas can be complicated, I stand convicted of a simple truth that is often overlooked. Christmas happens in us too. I’m not talking about a transformation from scrooges or grinches to bubbly fountains of holiday cheer (though perhaps we need a bit of that too). I’m talking about God, our Immanuel, being with us and in us.

Through Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God has taken up residence in us—by his Spirit, Christ has come to live in our hearts. Jesus acknowledges in John 17 that he is present in all believers just as the Father is in him and he is in the Father. Amazing!

Whatever complicated physical, emotional, or spiritual reality you are facing this Christmas, know that Jesus is not just a baby in a manger surrounded by Joseph, Mary, and some shepherds. Jesus is in you.

May God bless you this Christmas with his presence in you.