I gave a Christmas talk for the first time in a long while yesterday. I gave it twice!
If oral communication was the same as written communication, and if i’d had more than four minutes, the talk would’ve been something like this…
“Some of us are really looking forward to spending time with family at Christmas. And some of us are a bit stressed and worried about it. Some of us are both! Family can be complicated, y’know? There can be issues, old fights that’ve hung around, There was that time at that wedding when this aunt said something to that aunt that nobody’s ever forgiven and everyone took sides, except actually, barely anyone can now remember what was said, only that they don’t see that side of the family much any more.
And for some us the reasons are deeper, darker, and unfortunately, in many many cases, hidden. The problems seem intractable, unfixable, you never want to see those family members ever again.
Christmas can be hard.
But most of us still wish it could be a time for our family to be together, content and at peace, sharing a meal and getting along.
Which is exactly what God wants Christmas to be like as well.
Imagine for a moment there is a God. That He’s not just some weird, abstract idea, in the sky, of an old man, with a beard, but that He’s a Dad. A heavenly (heaven-based) Father. This is what Christians believe about God, that as He made us all, we are all His children.
But there’s baggage there. For most of us, the relationship with God isn’t that good. For some of us, we just stopped talking to Him a while ago. Our maybe our parent’s generation did, and so, we’re not quite sure why we don’t speak to that part of our family any more, but we know it’s just the way things are.
For some us, we feel wronged. He’s let us down in some way, so we don’t want to have to plaster on a fake smile and hang out, and send Him a Christmas card and pretend like things are great with Dad.
Some of us know that at a previous family gathering, something went wrong… Dad wanted to do things one way, everyone else decided to do it another, things got pretty heated, and now, well… You haven’t been together as a family for years.
Just as with some of our earthly family problems, this distance, this brokenness can seem irreconcilable. And frankly, some of us think we’re better off having cut Dad out of the picture. It was too painful and too ridiculous to keep talking to Him, we’re better off alone.
Some of us are uneasy about that though… We’ve heard about toxic people, and toxic relationships, but so many people speak of how loving God is, and His Son doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy. As the second or third generation, unsure of what supposedly went wrong, we look across the gap at our cousins and think, “um, why aren’t we talking to them? They seem fine…!”
And that’s where Jesus comes in. In His ‘swaddling cloths’ (old school nappy) and cuteness.
Just as it can seem impossible to bring aunt Millicent and aunt Margaret together and get them talking again, it can seem impossible for this distance between our Heavenly Dad and His family to be reconciled. Millicent and Margaret have been silent toward each other for so long, it’s clear something big needs to be done.
What could it be?
Will one side finally admit they were wrong…?
Well, if you knew the aunts, you’d know that’s never gonna happen! Admit fault? Nooooooo no no…
But you know things will never quite be right if they don’t deal with what went wrong…
Even if no one is willing to admit fault, there still needs to be a way for them to say, “I’m sorry, I still love you.”
Some sort of grand gesture?
That’s exactly what Dad-God was doing in sending His Son. We read in the Bible, in the book of John, chapter three, verse 16, “God loved the world, so he gave His one-of-a-kind Son, so that whoever trusts in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” God sent His own Son, a grand gesture, to show that He is willing to put the differences aside. He wants us to be together as a family this Christmas, so He made the first move.
The horrible secret is, the fault doesn’t lie with Him. We’re the ones who did wrong, we’re the ones who pushed Him away.
But He loves us. Unlike Millicent and Margaret, He’s more than happy to sacrifice His dignity, indeed, to sacrifice Himself, so that we can be together again.
He knows there’s baggage. As does His Son. If you asked Jesus how He felt about hanging out with the family, He’d probably say, “well look, there was that one time, when they crucified me, and, y’know, that hurt, but I love them. They drive me crazy, but I love them. They’re family! They can do so much damage, but so much good as well. There’s nothing like that love that says, yes, we will be together, forever. Blood for blood. I am for you. It’s family. It’s the most important thing. We’ve added people in along the way, the family expands in wild and crazy directions. Some have come in via marriage, all are adopted, we just love and love and love. I’m looking forward to being with the family this Christmas. I want us all to be together. To move past the things that broke us apart, and strengthen our relationships instead. I want us to love each other more by Boxing Day than we did before.”
God isn’t in the business of pretending there’s nothing wrong. He’s not the family member that simply pretends anyone He doesn’t like doesn’t exist. Instead, He set about fixing what was wrong, making the grand gesture, sending the big gift.
He’s made the first move.
How will you respond?”