25th December 2022
I read a quote by Rev Billy Graham just before Christmas that finished with the words “he came to die. This is the heart of Christmas”
Dare I disagree with the late, great Rev Billy Graham? I think I’m going to have to. How can death be the heart of Christmas? How can death have been Jesus’ mission? Christmas is wonderful. Easter is wonderful- though I would argue it’s the resurrection, not the death that makes it wonderful. But there’s this whole bit in between. This three decade long bit, that we only have a three year glimpse of, but what a glimpse! This part in between Christmas and Easter that seems to get relegated to “less important” this thing that Jesus had, that he shared with us:
Dirty, complicated, difficult, often tough but always worth it. Life.
That’s the heart of Christmas: Life.
God did not become human just to be killed, he was not born just to die. He came here to live. Jesus loved life, he spoke about life, taught us and showed us how to live life and when answering questions about what his purpose was, he never once said “I came to die” rather he said:
I am the bread of life (John 6:35)
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (John 4:10)
I came that they might have life, and life in all its fullness. (John 10:10)
If Jesus’ birth was solely for the purpose of dying then God may as well have just let Herod kill him as an infant, Jesus came to earth to live, and what he did with that life is important. Jesus the adorable baby, born in a stable, bringing hope, is easy to love. Jesus the victim of crucifixion who then rises in triumph and glory, conquering even death, is easy to worship. But Jesus the human, who lived a messy human life, who argued with religious people, and upset the rich folk and said complicated or just downright inconvenient things, isn’t quite so simple. The Jesus who asks us to take up our cross and follow him, who provides an example of living with no material comfort, of perfect sacrificial love, who tells us that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, who tells us to become like slaves to one another, who washes his disciples feet and has no truck with our tendencies to pride, judgmentalism and hypocrisy. He’s more of a challenge.
But that Jesus, that ‘life’ Jesus reminds us that life is worth living. The Jesus who wept at the death of his friend, who went to parties and turned water into wine, who ate, and talked, and listened and loved with all of humanity. Jesus who brought life wherever he went, healing, empowering, defending. Jesus who could have stayed in heaven, sitting on a throne, attended to by angels, but chose to enter life, enter our lives in squalor and scandal, chose to live, even though he knew he’d be murdered, he chose life, and he invites us to choose it too.
And not just any life. Life in all its abundance. That’s his desire for us. He did not come just so we could have eternal life, he did not come just to save us from a future death, he did not come to die. He came to live and he came that we might have life, and life in all its fullness.
Don’t just choose life
Choose Abundant Life.