This time of year is a special, magical time. The pleasures of Thanksgiving are still fresh on our minds. The anticipation of Christmas joy looms large on the horizon. Most of us are inclined to be kinder and gentler than we are much of the rest of the year. We are more inclined to be tolerant of other people, thus more disposed to choose to be happy. Benevolent organizations work throughout the year with the goal of being able to pour out blessings during the Christmas season, thus fewer people are ill-fed and ill-clothed during this season. All of this is wonderful and good; however, it is of little long term consequence. I speak not of the need for kindness, benevolence and tolerance throughout the year, though that would be nice. Rather, I speak of the need for Christ to be formed in you for eternal consequence.
We must not lose track of Jesus being the Reason for the Season. We must not miss the eternal purpose in His coming to earth as a man. We must not fail to realize the consequences of His birth. He was not born just to be born; He was born to die. He did not die just to die; He died to be resurrected. And these are not all. He was also born to live. Christmas is important. Good Friday is important. Easter is important. However, His life was just as important. Colossians 1:27 tells me that the mystery revealed in the New Testament is that “Christ in me is the hope of glory.” Galatians 2:20 tells me “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” Christ died in my place; He also lived in my place. Jesus was sent as the representative man to replace the first representative man, Adam. He was a substitute for you and for me in death but also in life. Everything the man Jesus did was significant. His birth, death and resurrection were important but so were His circumcision, baptism, temptation, loving, forgiving, obeying, ministering, foot washing, interceding, transfiguration, Gethsemane experience, suffering, etc. Everything that Christ did was so that we would not have to. Surely we attempt to follow in His footsteps and so we should. However, our attempts to mimic Him are poor attempts indeed. We would be helpless and hopeless if our salvation, our abundant life, were dependent upon our efforts.
The birth of Christ at Bethlehem is a fantastic miracle. The birth of Christ in your heart and mine is a greater miracle. Paul told us in Galatians 4:19 that he was in labor until “Christ was formed in us.” As we read the gospels, tracing the life of Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee and Judah, we would do well to trace the life of Jesus in our own hearts. As He is progressively formed in us, we learn the truth of John the Baptist’s declaration: we decrease as He increases. Our living doesn’t become easier; it becomes less. We begin to learn the truth of “it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” This is not ivory tower theology only for intellectual argument. This is real world stuff for real people. As Christ is birthed in our hearts and grows to maturity there, He gradually and progressively takes over every aspect of our lives. We, who apart from Him can do nothing, no thing at all, eventually learn what it means to rest in Christ, allowing Him to live in our place. The Christian life is not meant to be a misery filled struggle; the Christian life is meant to be a joy filled resting. This Christmas, give yourself a present; give way to Christ, allowing Him to live in you, through you, for you.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.