A time to enjoy relationships

What are you looking forward to this Christmas season? Holidays? Presents? Eating a lot? Singing Christmas carols?

I think one of the best things about Christmas is spending time with people we love. We spend holiday time with them. They’re the ones we give Christmas presents to. And share food with.

But sometimes sharing time with family and friends can be awkward. There might be unresolved tension between some family members. Or it might just be the hassle of people taking over your house and using your bathroom snoring loudly as they share your bedroom.

Have you thought of God as a Christmas guest? Because that’s how the Apostle John describes it in his famous opening to his Gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14a The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

When you’re sitting around the table, eating Christmas lunch, stop and think for a moment: Jesus did that. He came and ate and laughed and joked with his friends, his disciples. But that’s no ordinary human being. That’s God, as human, come to dwell with us.

When God moved in to stay

But God in Christ is actually more inconvenient than that. We might host family and friends who come from far away to visit us. But, thankfully, they go away eventually, and we can get back to normal. We might go holiday at the beach. But we don’t actually live there. We don’t buy a house, we don’t enrol our children in the beachside school. We’re just visiting, on holiday.

But in Christ, God didn’t just come to visit. He came to live. That’s why John 1:14 says the Word “made his dwelling among us”. God didn’t just come to earth for a holiday. He didn’t just park his caravan here, look around, get a tan, buy some souvenirs, and leave. He moved in and settled down.

Just imagine that for a moment. A family member turns up at Christmastime, not just with a small bag to stay a few days, but with a whole truckload of their belongings. “Hi”, they say, “I’ve decided to move in. Sorry I didn’t give you more notice. Been kinda busy, you know, it’s Christmas…”

How inconvenient would that be…?

But the Bible doesn’t focus on our inconvenience. It focuses on how inconvenient it was for God to come down to us. Philippians 2:8 says Christ “humbled” himself. God lives in heaven. Why would he want to live on earth? Usually, we want to live in nice suburbs. We don’t usually choose to go downhill. If we have to move into a cheaper area, it’s usually been forced on us, by some outside problem – our business has gone broke, or we’ve lost our job, or something.

And forget a hospital and delivery ward – he didn’t even have a cot to sleep on. Joseph and Mary were really, really minor people. They were so low in even their own family’s eyes, they didn’t deserve to be housed in a guest room – even though Mary was pregnant.[1]Recent research into Biblical Greek shows that the word in Luke 2:7 traditionally translated “inn” refers to the guest room of a family house, not to a “hotel” for travellers.

“You’re not welcome here”

But that actually fits with what happened that first Christmas. Because when God came to live on earth, we didn’t want him here. John 1:10-11 says:

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Imagine you’re seated at Christmas lunch. And God walks in with a big smile, and says “hi everyone – merry Christmas!” How would you respond? Would you jump up and hug him and say “welcome, welcome”? Would you fall on our knees and worship?

This passage says there’ll be an awkward pause. Then a corporate groan from everyone at table. “On no. Not him. Things were so nice until he turned up.”

We don’t want God to live with us, because we don’t want him to rule our lives. We want to live our lives by ourselves, for ourselves.

Isn’t that how most of our fights start? Someone wants to do something one way. We want to do it another way. And we have a fight. Be reasonable! Do it the best way – my way…!

The thing is – God has the right to tell us how to live. Because he made us. He owns us. He made and owns and runs the whole universe. Therefore, his way really is the best way.

But we don’t like that. We want to do things our way. Not God’s way.

That’s why the first Christmas happened the way that it did. We clean up the Christmas story. We imagine cute, clean animals, in a cute, clean shed, with a cute, clean baby Jesus is in a cute, clean manger.

That’s not what actually happened…!

Jesus was laid in a manger – an animal’s feeding trough. Can you imagine putting a newborn in a pig’s feeding trough? Even a clean one? When God came to live on earth, his first home was a pigsty. In a shed full of animal dung and lice.

That’s why most people in the Bible rejected Jesus. We sing songs about the angels and the shepherds and the wise men. We don’t sing about King Herod. He hated Jesus so much, he ordered that all the children in Bethlehem, under two years of age, be killed. Jesus only escaped because God warned Joseph, who took the family to Egypt.

That’s how we treated Jesus, that first Christmas day. Jesus is God, so the way we treat Jesus is the way we treat God. Basically, we kicked him out of the house, fed him junk, and wished he was dead.

Christ welcomes those who rejected him

How would you respond if someone treated you like this? I know what I’d do. I’d get angry and storm out and forget about ever coming again. And not even send them a Christmas card.

That’s not what Jesus does. John 1:12-13:

12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew up. And as an adult, he died on the cross, and rose again from the dead. He did this to forgive us for rejecting God, and to make us members of God’s family.

Usually, when we go to someone’ place for Christmas lunch, we know they’re happy to see us. So we don’t tentatively stand at the door saying “Hello? Can I come in?” We just barge in, yelling “hello! Merry Christmas!” and hug everyone.

If we trust Jesus, then we’re part of God’s family. God himself is always happy to see us. So we can walk up to God confidently, say merry Christmas, and give him a big hug.

But to do that, we have to “receive” and “believe in” Jesus, like it says in John 1:12. To “receive” and “believe in” Jesus means more than just believe he existed. It means to accept that he, and only he, can make us children of God, and give us a place at God’s table.

Have you done that? Are you part of God’s family? Are you confident you have a place at God’s table?

If so, then you have something wonderful to look forward to, this Christmas, and every Christmas to come.

A place at the table

What are you looking forward to this Christmas season? Holidays? Presents? Eating a lot? Singing Christmas carols? Celebrating with family?

This Christmas, let’s celebrate the fact that in Christ, God came to earth. Not just for a visit, but to live with us. Let’s celebrate that despite the fact that we rejected him, he didn’t reject us. He died and rose to make us members of God’s family, with a place at God’s table.

References   [ + ]

1.Recent research into Biblical Greek shows that the word in Luke 2:7 traditionally translated “inn” refers to the guest room of a family house, not to a “hotel” for travellers.