God is near

The other day I was listening to a song on Spotify. It was not a Christmas song, but it really articulated the entire meaning of Christmas in very few words. Yes, I know it’s a week late. I know it’s New Year’s Day. But I’m gonna do this anyway for several reasons. One, I really don’t want to have to wait another 51 weeks for Christmas to roll around again. Two, it’s not really a Christmas song, so it’s timely no matter what. As is the message of Christmas. Three, it’s still 5 days til Epiphany, so technically we’re on the seventh day of Christmas. I haven’t gotten seven swans a-swimming or anything else to commemorate the 7th day of Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still the Christmas season.

–I now interrupt my entire thought process because “William It Was Really Nothing” just came on in Starbucks. How cool is that???–

Now with all that said (and with Morrissey’s voice singing sweetly to me) I’ll continue. See, the thing is, a lot of people don’t celebrate Christmas and I know this. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Some people believe it to be an exclusively Christian holiday. Some believe it’s a great time for family and friends to get together and show appreciation for each other and eat and drink and be merry. Or be nostalgic. Or be grumpy, as I am many times. Some find it to be an opportunity to rage against capitalism or commercialization or Christians or atheists, or a whole host of other things. Some complain that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost in the middle of all this noise.

But do people even know what the true meaning of Christmas is? In the grand scheme of things, it’s a story of love and peace. That is a message anyone can appreciate, no matter where they are on the political or religious spectrum. We can all appreciate love and peace. During Christmas, we show this too. We’re usually a little more cheerful and kind to each other. Aside from at the mall parking lot, you see most people demonstrating this. They show the love and peace that the message of Christmas is all about. Again, this is a phenomenon that crosses many walks of life and is certainly not unique to devout Christians. But I think the context of that peace and love is an important part of the story, and that is what gets neglected a lot of the time. It’s something that, lately, has really become clear to me.

Love, in the form of an infant that was fully human and fully God, lowered itself to the earth. The creator chose to spend a few decades with his creation, experiencing all the trials and temptations that we do. He didn’t have to. He could have stayed where he was — he had every right to. Even more remarkably, he came to a world that was hostile to him. He sacrificed himself 33 years later, taking punishment that the human race deserved. We humans have done a lot of heinous things. That’s a lot of punishment and he took it all. He did it for one reason.

Peace. God chose to come to earth so that he could have peace with us. We were hostile to him, we broke all his rules, and he was nothing but good to us. But out of the love he had for us, he came to bring peace between us and him. Again, he didn’t have to. We broke the contract. We rebelled. We rejected him. But God didn’t want to have to punish us. He wanted to spend eternity with us. So instead he came, to bring peace on earth.

Peace on earth is definitely not a foreign concept this time of year. You hear the story, in church or on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and that phrase comes with great joy. I have this picture in my mind of angels, who just can’t contain themselves, sitting up in heaven. The one “spokesman” angel goes to the shepherds and tells them the news. And the rest of them are sitting up in heaven like, well, kids on Christmas morning. I like to think they’re so excited there that they just can’t sit still. This is exciting. This is the best gift ever. This is peace between two opposing camps. This is what the earth has been waiting for since the first bite of the fruit back in Eden. This is what the whole world has been waiting for, and in a way we didn’t even know it.

How could they not get excited? So there they are, all fidgety in heaven, and the one angel tells the shepherds all the details, and all of heaven just can’t handle it anymore. It’s too exciting. They all burst forth in joy and praise God for this. For sending peace to the human race, the kind of peace that the angels already know. The truth is, we humans don’t really know what we’re missing. But the angels do. Because they have it. And once we as humans experience even a small taste of it, we get super excited too.

Which brings me back to the song I’d heard the other day. Shockingly, it’s a David Crowder Band song. Bet you weren’t expecting that… So I was listening to this song called “Eastern Hymn” and it really just said everything that is in the message of Christmas. “God is near to each one of us”. He came. He conquered death, so he could be near to us. We don’t have to go searching for him. We don’t have to jump through hoops to get his attention or his approval. We don’t have to do anything. He is here. He is accessible to us all. All we need to do is believe that. It’s that easy.

And the truth is, when this reality hits you, Christmas really does become a huge celebration. God brought us the ultimate peace, the ultimate love, so far beyond our expectations. Peace on earth is a great thing, but peace with heaven is even better. Having a person love you is nice. But having the creator of the universe, who made stars, and mountains and whole planets, love us, who are not worthy of such love, changes lives. And I think Christmas is really about all of that.

And that’s why I like this song so much, especially at this time of year. It’s pure excitement. OK, I’m becoming very long winded here. It almost seems too much, but on the other hand it’s all important parts of the story. I think it’s been appropriately explained now, so I’ll shut up now and let the music convey my excitement.

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