What’s the Big Deal with Christmas?

Why do we celebrate Christmas? There are many reasons. It’s a time of goodwill and cheer. It’s a time when we express our love to one another through gifts. It’s a time for families to gather – maybe to spend time with those relatives that we only get to see once a year. But the main reason (which many don’t want to acknowledge) is that at Christmas we celebrate that Jesus was born. Why is that such a big deal? Why is this particular birthday worthy of such celebration? If we misunderstand this event, we will miss out on the true meaning of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

The birth of Jesus was not an ordinary birth. It’s not just that He was born in a manger (though that was unusual). It’s not just that angels were singing (though that was unusual). It’s not just that there was a huge star that pointed the way to His birthplace (though that was unusual). It’s not just that He was born of a virgin (though that was certainly extraordinary). The big deal with Jesus’ birth is that it marked the moment when God took on human form.

God, the creator of the universe, who upholds it by the power of His word, chose to become one with His creation. The infinite, almighty God, took on finite, limited, weak human form. In this unexplainable act of love, God forever committed Himself to the human cause. In Jesus, there is no more separation between God and humans; instead what we find is a perfect, selfless act of infinite, other-centered, overflowing love.

For centuries people have wrestled with the notion of Jesus being fully God and fully man. It defies human comprehension. To reconcile the discomfort, we tend to favor one aspect of Jesus’ being while downplaying the other. Philosophers, theologians, great thinkers, have done this for centuries.

On one hand, some people regard Jesus as a godly man – a man with a full God-awareness; a man with the courage of a god; a man full of God; a man with great moral character; an unparalleled leader, teacher and guide; but still… just a man. But the Bible clearly says that Jesus was (and is) God:

John 5:18 – [Jesus] was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus knew clearly who He was. There was no doubt in Him that He was indeed God. And we also find these in several other places in Scripture (here are just a few):

John 1:1,14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Philippians 2:5-6 – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.

Colossians 2:9 – In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

On the other hand, some people (like the Gnostics) regard Jesus as God, but downplay His humanity. But to really know Jesus, we must remember the human limitations that He experienced when He walked on the earth. The Bible says that Jesus was

· Born of a woman, born under the law

· Grew in wisdom and stature

· Was fully flesh and bones (limited by time and space)

· Had a rational mind

· Experienced emotions – sadness, compassion, rejection, anguish

· He was hungry and thirsty

· He needed sleep

· He depended on God (prayer)

· He displayed obedience to the Father (not self-sufficient, nor independent)

So, what’s the big deal? What does all of that mean?

It means that in Jesus we have the perfect Savior – one who can identify with our frailty, but who at the same time is the solution.

· If you are sorrowful, remember that Jesus wept – and that He is your joy, who turns your mourning into dancing.

· If you are sick, remember that Jesus bore our sicknesses on His body – and that He is your healer.

· If you are weak or tired, remember that Jesus felt likewise – and that He is your strength.

· If you feel lonely, remember that Jesus was abandoned, betrayed and rejected – and that He is an ever-present friend.

· If you are anxious, remember that Jesus sweat drops of blood – and that He is your peace.

· If you are dealing with temptation, remember that Jesus was also tempted – and that He gives you a way out and forgives your sins.

· If you have need, remember that Jesus faced situations where resources were not enough – and that He is your provider.

· If you feel far from God, remember that Jesus felt the same separation when He hung on the cross – and that He wants to show you the Father and reconcile you to Him.

· If you are making decisions, remember that Jesus knows what it means to seek the Father’s counsel – and that He is your wisdom and guide.

· If you feel inadequate for the task ahead, remember that Jesus did supernatural works because He was anointed by the Holy Spirit – and He wants to fill you with the same Holy Spirit so you can do all that you are called to do.

Because Jesus was born – fully God and fully man – there is no separation between God and humanity. No matter what you are facing, you don’t have to look at your human limitation. You can come boldly to God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. In Jesus we have the guarantee that God is with us and for us. And this is why we gladly celebrate Christmas.

We can say, together with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood | All Rights Reserved 2017

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Enhanced Enjoyment

Walking down the streets of Oxford by myself today.  I’m admiring the imposing architecture that holds so much history, so much knowledge, so much beauty… and I have no one to share it with, except God. I find myself talking to Him about it, and pondering the dichotomy of wanting to share this experience with others and yet valuing this time alone with Him.

20150805 ChristchurchThen my thoughts turn to what we have been discussing in class this week. We are talking about the renewal of worship. And the thought that has been prevalent in my mind is how we think the biblical admonition to “gather together” is satisfied by being in a building with lots of people once (or maybe twice) a week. Generally speaking, in our church services we all enjoy the same thing simultaneously (the music, the sermon, the prayers); but are we really gathering? Are we really worshipping together? Or are we simply worshipping individually in the presence of a multitude? Don’t take me wrong; I’m discounting neither the value of individual worship nor what happens in large church gatherings.  But I wonder if the writer of Hebrews had something much greater in mind when he says “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (10:15).

Back to my walk in Oxford. I can enjoy and appreciate this by myself. But the enjoyment would be enhanced if I could share it with someone else. I can appreciate what I see; but my appreciation is enhanced when other points of view. Others may see things that I’ve missed, or share emotional responses that are different from mine. Perhaps they know things that enrich my understanding of ‎the experience. And simply articulating what I’m enjoying makes it all the richer, all the more fulfilling.

20150805 Divinity School 2It’s the same with our enjoyment of God. It’s one thing to worship Him on my own. And it’s good. But it’s so much better when it’s shared with someone else. ‎When we praise God – not by singing the same song at the same time (though there is value in that) – but by speaking well of Him one to another, our worship is enhanced. Some of my richest worship experiences have taken place around a dinner table with friends, sharing what God has done in our lives, making Him “famous” one to another. It is one thing to sing songs to God, and quite another to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).  It’s one thing to thank the Lord on my own, and a different expression to share my gratitude with someone else. It’s one thing to praise the Lord personally, and something else to speak the praises of God to others who can join in praise.

God has wired us for relationships for a number of reasons (not the subject of this blog). But as the relational beings that we are, we know that we can’t get the full enjoyment of anything in our lives unless it is shared with someone else. So I encourage you to seek opportunities to worship together with others, to praise the Lord one to another; to sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs with your friends. Cultivate a life of worship that goes beyond the structured worship of a Sunday service.

You were made for worship, and you were made relationally. Don’t settle for anything less.


Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood   |  All Rights Reserved 2015