For millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.
– Frederick Buechner
I ran across this quote today as I was poring over the jumbled notes I had made over the past month while collecting thoughts for my Christmas letter to you. I have this unorthodox habit of jotting down random ideas as I work on each month’s issue, and then right before the drop-dead deadline, I pull out my scribbles, read all the articles submitted by our contributors, and try to organize my thoughts in some coherent manner. If any journalism professor knew that, he would probably use me as the prime example of what NOT to do! The December letter is always the toughest to write because, as I have pointed out before, my Thanksgiving turkey is probably still strutting around the barnyard somewhere while I try to wax wise and inspired on the subject of Christmas. I have a hard time living beyond the present moment.
But I love Buechner’s words, “the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.” That would be another way of calling attention to Isaiah’s often quoted words that “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Obviously, God knows we are going to spend a lot of our lifetime in the flesh being baffled about events, circumstances, and relationships that we can’t completely understand or fix, and He is checking in to say, “Don’t worry because I have it under control.” There is a moment in a Believer’s journey when this profound truth really takes root. We realize it is only because of our relationship with Him that in this imperfect and broken world, it is indeed possible to know peace, joy, and the absence of fear even when we don’t understand the “why” or the “what comes next” of it all. He, the Babe of Bethlehem––He is our “new way of living.” And it is that Jesus we celebrate in this Christmas season.
As I read over the familiar Christmas story in Luke’s gospel, I realized that after the shepherds worshipped the Baby at Bethlehem, they returned to their posts, guarding their sheep, and there was nothing new or improved about their circumstances. They were still poor shepherds keeping watch over their sheep, but scripture says, “they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…” So, no magic acts, no prizes behind the curtain, no sweepstakes. But they were changed by an encounter with the living God, and so––like Buechner says, they had received “a new way of living life.”
I am certain through personal experience that knowing Jesus does change our perspective even when it doesn’t change our circumstance. Sometimes, just like the ancient Hebrews who were eagerly awaiting a savior to deliver them from Roman rule, we fix our eyes on this world praying for rescue from a multitude of injustices and uncertainties. Jesus, God’s only begotten son, did not leave the splendor of heaven with that kind of rescue in mind. And when the light comes on in our hearts and mind, we realize that Jesus Christ came to earth with a mission larger than our human minds can ever fathom, but for something our human hearts can embrace with a depth that defies every depressing and pessimistic thought on planet earth.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Metro Christian Living. May the true Peace—which is the Christ child—keep your hearts and minds, as you celebrate Him this Christmas season.