It is the month of December and I am sure we have all embarked on the Christmas season willingly or not. It is a season of good-will, thinking of others, family gatherings, bottomless wallets, putting up decorations (grrrrr) and drinking lots of hot chocolate (which I am not allowed to do on my diet – sigh).
Sadly, for many, it will also be a painful season as loved ones have passed away. I am one upon whom this sadness rests as it was just over a year ago when my mother passed away…and then just a couple of months later my father went home to heaven. It is a loss that is real, but not one that paralyzes. Still, I recognize the hardness of losing one with whom you have lived your life, a partner, a best friend, a spouse. Yet, even in that struggle God holds our hand and walks with us even though His footprints are unseen (Psalm 77).
Hardship at Christmas is a theme that Charles Dickens draws our attention to in his famous “Christmas Carol”. There, it is the Cratchit family that tries to find joy in the simple things of life even when their “Tiny Tim’s” health is suffering. It is only through the visit of three ‘spirits’ that Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly and embittered shop owner, changes his attitude toward Christmas and allows Bob Cratchit, the father, to enjoy Christmas with his family, and with a surprising overabundance of good-will from Mr. Scrooge. A huge has taken place in Mr. Scrooge’s life and he begins to set things right that he has neglected and fought against for so long. Dickens offers us the great moral lesson that when we are so consumed with ourselves we can lose the ‘spirit’ of Christmas.
As much as I like a good Dickens novel it won’t surprise you that I much prefer the breathed out and Divinely inspired Gospel of John. John has written his Gospel in order to present evidence that will ultimately lead people to belief, and through such Christ-Centered belief that they will have life – abundant life. He says it clearly in 20:30-31…
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30–31 (ESV)
So, it is no surprise then, that when we come to Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel we are not encountered with a man by the name of Ebenezer, but Nicodemus. In this encounter with Jesus another lesson of a ‘change of heart’ takes place, but this is not simply a moral story. No, this is ‘The Story’ of a changed heart that only comes through Regeneration. It is a new birth that all who are drawn by God’s Spirit enjoy. It is a new birth that comes because of that initial birth, the birth of Jesus, the Son of Joseph, the Son of God and the Son of Man.
The best known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, is found in the context of regeneration..
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)
So, it is right to say that the Christmas message is not just, “A Child is Born” or “The Birth of a King”, but it is also, “You must be born again”! It is also right to see the message of Christmas pushing us forward to encompass His death reminding us that ‘He was born to die’.
Christmas is many things to many people, but to we who are called the Children of God, it is a day to celebrate the Birth of a King, the King of Kings, who died and rose again and in so doing paid for our sin and granted us ‘new birth’ in Him.