As Christmas rushes toward us, I think it’s time to get our focus where it needs to be.
Not on the last-minute gifts we need to buy. Not on figuring out our upcoming holiday travel. Not on whether it’s turkey or beef for dinner. Not on the 17 ways in which The Last Jedi stunk to high heaven. Or why the Republican tax plan will expand our prosperity or destroy the nation.
It’s time to focus on the one for whom the holiday is named – on Christ.
Even as you read the word, some of you went, “Oh, right. I’d forgotten.” But even as that happened, didn’t the tiniest sensation of peace enter your heart, if only for a second? So bring your mind back to him.
Let your mind rest there. Someone asked me once what’s so special about this one man, that we name a holiday after him, and write songs for him, and split time because of him.
My answer at the time was a bit clunky, but since then I’ve finessed it (as a preacher would.) Here are six reasons why Jesus Christ, the one whose birth we will soon celebrate, is the greatest human to have ever walked the earth.
The Words Of Jesus.
Many Bibles conveniently highlight the words of Jesus in red. Go ahead and read them. Then ask yourself, who in the history of humanity has spoken like this?
There have been many brilliant orators in the history of man. Many who were good with words. David’s poetry. Solomon’s proverbs. Socrates could hold a crowd spellbound. Shakespeare knew a thing or two about words.
But Jesus Christ blows the field away. Not only was it the content of his communication that held people spellbound, it was the way he spoke, with an authority that people didn’t dare exercise, back then or today. Which leads to a second consideration.
The Weight Of Jesus.
Not referring to his poundage. But his self-assurance. Some might call it arrogance. Or lunacy. He had no doubt of who he was and what he had come to do.
While Jesus never came right out and said, “I am God,” he gave everyone an opportunity to think it. He had the audacity to forgive people’s sins. He accepted worship. He called himself the “Lord of Sabbath”, claiming to have authority over one the Jews’ most holiest of days. He called himself the “Son of Man”, utilizing Daniel’s famous Messianic title. He didn’t stop there. He called himself the “Son of God”. He boasted that his words would never pass away. (Not even President Trump has made that claim…but he still has three years to go.) Jesus spoke of an eternal kingdom that he would lead. He claimed to have the power to summon heaven’s angels.
When you read the claims of Christ, you can only conclude one of two things about him: that he was either the nutcase of all nutcases, or he was God in human flesh. You must either run from him, or fall down and worship him. Those are your only choices.
But could a man such as this be crazy? Not when you consider the next couple of qualities Jesus exhibited.
The Wisdom Of Jesus.
If God were to come to earth, you wouldn’t be able to trick him, fool him, or pull the wool over his eyes. People tried with Jesus all the time. But they couldn’t do it.
Should we pay taxes to Caesar? Lord, this woman was caught in adultery. Jesus, it’s the Sabbath day and look at this poor crippled person.
He’d turn the table on them time and time again. It’s as though he could look right inside their heart and read their minds. Which is what the Bible tells us: that he knew the thoughts of those who came to him, and could perceive the very motives that drove them. People who are mentally unstable can be brilliant, but there’s a difference between brilliance and wisdom. You could not fool this man. Or expose him as a fraud.
The Way Of Jesus.
Think about the way he treated people. The way he loved children. The respect with which he regarded women. The tenderness with which he looked on the poor and the powerless. His touching of the leper. His weeping with the grieving. His determination to find a lost soul. His anger at unjust leaders who ripped off those in their charge. His absolute love for people.
Is it any wonder the crowds flocked to him? He fed them, comforted them, prayed for them, healed them, made them feel like their lives mattered, and that God himself cared for them.
Above all that, when I think of the way of Jesus, I think of his absolute sinlessness. The way he led his life. I dare you to find a mistake, a flaw, a blemish, a scandal, one act of wrong-doing, one act of selfishness or immorality in him. Find me one! You can’t. Every other human figure throughout history, including all the greatest religious leaders of all time were deeply flawed. But not Jesus.
Need more proof?
The Wonders Of Jesus
Consider his miracles and his acts of power. Even a secular historian like Josephus concedes the fact that Jesus of Nazareth had stirred up the province of Galilee in the days of Pontius Pilate with purported miracles and amazing acts of power.
The Old Testament prophesied the exact miracles the Messiah would perform when he came – healing the blind, deaf and mute. These miracles were his calling card.
But his wonders didn’t stop with his miracles. I think of the wonder of Jesus fulfilling all those Old Testament prophecies. Dozens of them. Specific ones, where he would be born, and how he would be born – of a virgin – and where he would grow up, which tribe he would come from, how he would be betrayed, on which animal he would enter Jerusalem, the method of his execution, who he would die with, that a rich man would bury him, that he would rise from the dead.
To be honest, I have to take the miracles which Jesus did on faith. I didn’t see them. The angels appearing to the shepherds, that’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t move my faith one way or another. I didn’t see it. It’s God being cool. Makes for a nice Christmas carol.
The miracles of Jesus I take on faith. But the prophecies don’t require faith because they’re right there in front of me. I can see them with my own eyes, the promise imbedded in the Old Testament, followed by the fulfillment given in the New.
But even the greatest of these wonders pale in comparison with the final item I have on the list.
The Work Of Jesus
It’s the one singular act for which Jesus was born into this earth in the first place. It’s the reason there was a Christmas. Jesus was born to die.
This babe born of a Virgin, and laid in a manger, and worshiped by Magi, and feared by kings would grow up into a man. Then in his early thirties, he would do a work so breathtaking in its sacrifice, and so awe-inspiring in it generosity, that it would from that moment on, to this very day, change the lives of those who came and bowed before him.
The God of some religions ask you to kill for them. Christianity is the only religion I know where our God died for us.
And through his death, we are given gifts unlike any we will find under our trees on Christmas. We find forgiveness for all our failures. We find acceptance from a loving heavenly Father. We find joy for the present and hope for the future. We find an inner power to move our lives in new and better directions. We are given a new capacity to love others.
This work Jesus did when he died on that Roman cross made all of these things possible. Made them possible for people back then, and for people today. Made it possible for you, reading this right now.
How do you experience this? The same way you experience any gift – you hold out your hands and you receive it. You say, “Yes” to the Giver, then “Thank you” with the dedication of your life to him.
May the final days of this final week before Christmas find you shifting in your thoughts, away from the things that matter little, to the one thing that matters most. May Christmas for you and yours, be less a holiday, and more a holy-day, filled with true love, joy and peace.