Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. | Hebrews 4:14–16
I spent an entire sermon trying my best to avoid the cliché statements of Christmas, only to fall headlong into: the gift that keeps on giving. The one that kept coming back to mind, and that I effectively pushed down, influenced the title of this article: Jesus is the Reason for the Season. The reason that it kept sitting on the tip of my tongue is because it is true; basically the whole point of the sermon (and I would argue John 1) is to overwhelm you with the concept of INCARNATION. It is to make it clear that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but the reason for everything!
My purpose for avoiding such phrases has to do with the pithiness that seems to come with them. With this platitude comes the idea that X-mas is taking the Christ out of Christmas, that Happy Holidays is a war on Christmas, and that Starbucks cup choices matter. On the other side of the coin, it leads to arguments about what season Jesus was actually born in, whether or not Christmas started as a pagan tradition, and how/why all Christians are really hypocrites. What all of these worthless conversations do is turn our actual attention from the manger. Jesus did not come so that Christian culture could overcome the world, or He would have set up a much more impressive church. He did not come to make sure everyone worshiped Him or He would have appeared in a much grander form than as a baby. He did not come to end all evil, yet. I say all of this because our response to the world is going to flow directly from why we think Jesus came.
The incarnation was about God ‘tabernacling’ with His people. This is how He created people to function: in perfect and present community with God. Sin keeps us from this. Jesus comes in order to make it possible for us to once again be in relationship with God. He not only is among His people for 33 years, but He promises to come back to establish the New Heavens and the New Earth to dwell with His people forever. The purpose for His coming to accomplish God’s plan to reveal Himself to His people; to create HOPE. The hope of Christmas is not in something we get immediately, to be used up and discarded quickly (like so many other presents), but something that unfolded over time to be realized fully in the future.
We so desperately want it now, like children on Christmas Eve begging you to let them open up their presents. We want the power, influence, and shalom that Jesus WILL establish; we often want them so bad that we are willing to set the relationship with God aside to grab at things that promise a taste of what is to come. The theological term for this is ‘immanentize the eschaton,’ which means trying to make God’s end happen now. But our part is not to accomplish the end, it is to recognize the means. Incarnation is God revealing to us that our only way to Him is through Jesus. While this minimizes us, it also gives us a place to go with our anticipation and fears: the throne of grace. Jesus not only accomplishes the end, but is the way we get there. He is our confidence and our mercy. This Christmas, rather than trying to figure out how to get your future glory now: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.