Let me begin with an unusual statement: I do not like the Christmas season. I find it full of platitudes, false cheerfulness, and a false gospel. Before you go on the defensive or just stop reading let me explain where I am coming from, and I believe you will find my argument more satisfying then cheerful Christmas’ carols.
What do I mean when I say that the Christmas season is full of platitudes, false cheerfulness and a false gospel? Look at most Christmas carols, movies, and books and you will find them full of words like generosity, hope, peace, joy and love. All of these things are good things, but as they stand in the Christmas celebration, they are at best platitudes, and at worst lies. Look at the news, look around the world; the world is embroiled in strife and war. It is overwhelmed by greed, jealousy, hatred, and violence. Where is the peace? Where is the joy? The hope?
Even as we shop for one another and spend time with family, there are millions who go to bed with nothing to eat, who go to bed with family members killed by war or disease. Where are all the cheerful things that Christmas carols promise us? Is the Angels’ message of peace and good will to mankind a lie? Is the message of our carols a delusion? No, neither the Christmas hymns nor the Angel’s message lead us astray. Instead it is ourselves who warp the Christmas message, it is our sinful desires which lead us to strip Christmas of its ultimate context, the context of the Cross.
We love the message of hope, peace, love, and joy. We want to hear that message, we long to hear of Christ as King, Christ as the ruler of all the world, a good and gracious ruler who brings an endless peace! But sadly for our desires that is not the case. For Christ to be born in a manager means that Christ must die; because there is an incarnation there must be a Cross.
The story of God’s incarnation is irrevocably bound with the story of the Cross. For God came to dwell among us, not to be a high and mighty king, nor a famous preacher, or a rich philanthropist; instead He came to die the death we deserve so that we don’t have to. The Christmas story leads straight to the Cross, into the grave, and finally to Easter morn in the ultimate victory over sin death and the devil.
So where is the peace, hope, joy and love we sing about in Christmas carols? The love is in God hanging upon a cross suffering a humiliating death for us; the peace is in God’s only son shedding His blood to atone for our sins; the joy is in the resurrection of Easter morn, and the hope is found in the promise that we too will one day be resurrected from the grave. We cannot remember the Christmas story rightly without remembering how the story ends.
This Christmas I pray that you find peace in the atoning blood of Christ, that you find joy in the love of God that lead to giving up His only Son to death on a cross, and hope in the promise of the resurrection at the last day, when Christ will be seated at the right hand of the Father as King over all creation. Amen.