Christmas Through OUR Eyes (5pm)
Topic: Understanding the True Meaning of Christmas Scripture: Colossians 1:15–1:20
When we think of Christmas a bunch of different things immediately fill our mind. And one of the powerful things about Christmas is how it becomes such a unique and personal experience for each and every person. We all have our own memories and our own traditions that we hold dear. So to start us off, I thought it would be fun to see what Christmas looks like for others. Earlier this week I put a post-up on Facebook and asked folks to answer a question: When you think of Christmas, what do you see? I actually generated a word cloud based on those responses. A word cloud, if you don’t know, is an image made up of words. The larger words represent words that appear more often. So our largest word is, obviously, Christmas. I got a lot of great responses and they mostly fell into a few categories.
I got a few of the what I’ll call nostalgic responses. Decorated Christmas trees, riding around in the car with family looking at Christmas lights, an illuminated crèche set up each year, old Christmas cartoons and movies, Christmas lights reflecting in the snow.
I got a good number of family related responses. Things like the look of wonder on a child’s face, having several generations together around a roaring fireplace, teaching and watching their children learn what Christmas is all about, sharing an oyster supper with the whole family, memories of a father who has passed away. One of my former youth group students simply said, “My mama…and our dog with a bow on his head.”
There were reflections of faith. Wondering what Mary thought when she looked down into the face of her newborn son, the meaning and power of a candlelight service on Christmas Eve… The disparities between wealth and poverty, the desperation of Joseph, hope, stars, and light. One little girl said, “I see Jesus.”
Heck, one of my friends from college said the first thing he thinks of is a Blink 182 song. I think the truth we find is that Christmas is so very different depending on whose eyes you are seeing it through. And that’s exactly what we’ve been exploring the past four weeks throughout the season of Advent. With our “Christmas Through the Eyes Of” series we’ve attempted to consider what Christmas meant to the Prophets who knew only of the promise of a Savior, what it meant to Herod who saw his tyrannical reign as king be challenged by the birth of a little boy, by Joseph who found out the hard way that often our plans are not God’s plans. And last week, we looked at Christmas through the eyes of Mary and tried to grasp the immeasurable faith and hope found in a young girl who had her whole life turned upside down.
Well, tonight we look at Christmas through another set of eyes. Our own. Yes, Christmas is a time filled with memories and inside jokes and secret recipes and the perfect tree and that one uncle who always puts on the Santa suit. But tonight, I want us to fill our eyes with a different vision. We’ve all heard the old adage that Jesus is the reason for the season. Despite that statements truth and sometimes frustrating exclusivity, I want our eyes to be set on Christ in a different way than is normal for Christmas. We have already heard the Christmas story from Luke that we are so familiar with. Now, let’s look at a different view of Christ. It’s a vision we find in Colossians 1:15-20.
This is one of those texts of Scripture that should give us pause. Reading it, we are both reminded of everything we already know about Christ… and at the same time, we’re introduced into brand new facets of his person and power we may have forgotten or never known to begin with. It’s a very saturated text, filled with a lot of doctrine and theology. But I don’t want us to fall into a theology lecture tonight. Tonight isn’t about that, really. Tonight is about us looking at Christmas in a new way. And I believe that this text can do that for us.
When we stop and think about Christ in the month of December, our minds are filled with images of an infant and farm animals and stars and wise-men. We are immediately brought to the nativity. And that’s a good thing. When you consider how many manger scenes we see over the month of December - maybe we forget how precious it is that we are given a glimpse of the scene where our Savior was born. But the danger is very real that we would think upon that manger scene and have our hearts fill with a similar warmth and joy that we feel when we read The Night Before Christmas or watch A Christmas Carol. Somewhere along the way our emotions and our perceptions get blended and diffused and we place the nativity scene in the same nostalgic hall of fame that we do other elements of Christmas. That’s why I wanted us to look at Colossians 1 tonight. To be reminded.
Reminded that in that infant is not simply the centerpiece of a great story but the very image of God. Reminded that all the props and characters accompanying that infant, the shepherds and wise-men and gifts and creatures and the stars themselves, that all of those things are not simply elements of a story but examples of all that Christ has created and that he continues to hold together. Reminded that the joy Mary and Joseph felt at Christ’s birth falls hopelessly short of the pleasure our God took in endowing Christ with his divine fullness and power to vanquish darkness. Colossians 1 reminds us that Jesus is not simply the reason for the season but that He is head of all things and the first among all. We sing about a silent night and asking that there be peace on earth. We know that that peace and the silence of all evil wasn’t accomplished merely by the child being placed in a wooden manger but that true, lasting peace would be accomplished through the wood of a cross. I know, I know. This may seem a little heavy for the holiday.
But, in truth, this is not a heavy subject for contemplation as much as it is news for cause of celebration. News that we must remember. News that changes us. News that brings meaning to a birth that happened centuries ago. For the past month we’ve had the chance to reframe our image of Christmas by looking through the eyes of others. Each of those stories is unique and has the power to touch each and every one of us in a mighty way. I was so thankful to have many of you come up to me after worship and say how you felt challenged by Herod’s experience of Christmas, how thinking about what Joseph went through made you consider God’s plan for your own life, and how Mary’s story helped you put into perspective a sorrow or a struggle you are enduring. We’ve been able to realize together that something powerful happens when we see a story through the eyes of another. But tonight, is about your eyes. What will you see in Christmas tomorrow?
Yes, you’ll see everything we’ve talked about. Many of you will see beautiful gifts and more than you can eat. You’ll see decorations and a tree. I have to be honest, while my family and I get ready to drive to PA, I’m glad you won’t see any snow. And maybe you’ll see a nativity scene in your home or a family members home. Just like with all the responses I got on Facebook, those things are part of Christmas. Good parts, parts that we should enjoy. Even so, my prayer is that you would look at Christmas with the lens of Colossians 1. That your heart would be glad knowing that not only was our Savior born but that He accomplished all He was sent to. And that part of His mission was to give you life and purpose and hope. It’s funny. When we stop and think about every character from our Eyes Of series, we see one thing that they all shared.
The prophets of the Old Testament, King Herod, even Mary and Joseph. All of them were looking toward Christ. Waiting for his arrival and thinking on how his birth would change things. Now, my friends, I believe it is the other way around. We should always look to Christ but we know that our Savior, that little boy born in a manger, returned to heaven and told his followers to go and make disciples of every nation. To spread the word of what our God has done.
All of those people in our series looked to Christ for action. For the past month, we’ve likely looked at every manger scene with some mixture of nostalgia and reverence. Tonight, tomorrow, now…Christ looks to you for action. His birth gave us hope. His life gave us an example. And his death gave us life and a call. Christmas Through Our Eyes should be about what we will do on the 26th and beyond. How will we honor Christ? With presence, like the shepherds? With gifts, like the magi? With love and devotion, like Mary and Joseph? Each of us the chance tonight to say that this Christmas will change more than the balances of our bank accounts and the mileage we put on our cars. We can decide to become the vessel through which Christ reaches this world. We can become the manger that holds Christ for another.
When we think of Christmas from this point on we can do it with eyes that are teary with emotion remembering all that went into our Saviors birth and life and death. We know that story and how it begins in Luke and culminates to images like Colossians 1. But our eyes can also possess a determination and steely-quality to move forward with purpose and intention in living out the hope and love of our Savior.
I shared last week how much the church should cherish Mary’s story. As we come to the end of this message, I believe her posture of openness is one we can take hold of as we seek to go from simply looking at Christmas and instead becoming the means for sharing the truth of Christmas. I want to finish my message tonight with a song. And while it is written from the perspective of Mary, I hope that these words would become your own personal prayer this Christmas.