I was greatly sobered by a statement my wife made last night as we were opening gifts. After reading the story of Christ’s birth as recorded by Luke, Erica began to tear into her poorly wrapped present when she said, “I’m upset.” At first I assumed it was because she was holding a pitifully wrapped gift (like, I wish I could wrap as well as a toddler). But after asking her why she was upset, she said something that both startled and intrigued me. She said, “I’m upset because I have not thought enough about the birth of Christ.”
Now, she was not referring to following through with Advent devotionals, which are important in helping prepare the heart to receive Christ at Christmas. She wasn’t referring to a reading of the Christmas story. She was referring to deep meditation on the incarnation of Jesus. God came to earth to dwell as a man. The truth is so marvelous and simple, yet complex and intimate that thinking deeply about it is overwhelming. My wife wants more of Jesus and when she does not think about what Jesus did for us in the incarnation, it startles her soul.
What is Christmas all about? Santa? Presents? Family? Food? I think all Christians would admit that Christmas is mainly about Jesus. But how deeply do we meditate on this reality? How much time do we consider and ponder what it meant for God to dwell among sinners? One of the most healthy things you can do for your soul this Christmas is to meditate deeply on the birth of Christ. Like my wife, be discontented with the time you have given to meditate on what God did for us in the birth of Jesus.
As my wife, who has been recovering from the flu, slept quietly, I was still buzzing from her discontent, for it was a holy discontent. Many kids and adults will be discontented with the amount of presents they find under the tree. But my amazing wife was discontented with not spending enough time with Jesus and in thought about his person and work. This led me to read and meditate into the early hours of Christmas morning. One thing my wife taught me on Christmas Eve was that Christmas without Christ is utterly hopeless and meaningless. Even while holding a gift in hand; even while spending time with the ones you love most; even while sitting beneath and bright and beautiful tree, not enough Jesus leads to not enough joy.
Instead of spending so much precious time and energy head hunting those who say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” or plow driving those who dare to use the “sinister” phrase, “Merry Xmas,” may we meditate deeply on the Christ who came. The more we think about the incarnation, the less we will care about such trivial matters. The more we think about the incarnation, the more comfort we will find in Jesus’ identification with us in our weakness. The more we think about the incarnation, the more we will realize the love of God for us. Nothing shouts God’s love for sinners like the incarnation and all of its implications. Oh, the wonder of the incarnate Christ! As Augustine once wrote,
He so loved us that, for our sake,
He was made man in time, although through him all times were made.
He was made man, who made man.
He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.
Wow. What does deep meditation on the incarnation ultimately lead to? Worship. What is Christmas really all about? Worship. The eternal and global renown of God in Christ is the purpose of Christmas. Being discontent with not enough Jesus at Christmas is a holy discontent. It is solved by falling on your knees in humble prayer to seek and find Christ. It is solved by poring over the Word of God. Christian, while your day will be busy with opening poorly wrapped gifts, sitting under beautiful trees with the ones you love, and eating delicious food, I pray you will be discontent if your mind and heart do not concentrate on the first coming of Christ. Then, along with my wife, I pray you will find satisfaction by thinking and talking about the wonder of Christmas, Immanuel, God with us.
He descended that he might raise us up, he went down to corruption, that corruption might put on immortality, he became weak for us, that we might rise with power, he descended to death, that he might bestow on us immortality, and give life to the dead. Finally, he became man, that we who die as men might live again, and that death should no more reign over us (Athanasius, On the Incarnation).
I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas (or, Happy Holidays or Merry Xmas, if you prefer!)
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.