15 Dec Christmas Is About a Relationship
Christmas is about a relationship.
I didn’t say that Christmas is about relationships, as in relationships with friends and family. Of course, this season brings many intentional moments to be with friends and family. But those relationships, important as they are, aren’t the best part of Christmas.
Christmas is about a relationship. Above all else, it’s about God’s desire to have a relationship with us.
Silence Is Alarming
If the last word from God you had was the book of Malachi, you wouldn’t be so sure that He wanted to be in a relationship with you. The prophet Malachi had spent most of his time reminding the Israelites that they had been ignoring the Lord. They neglected to worship and serve Him properly, in their offerings, sacrifices, justice, and relationships.
Still, God promised to send a messenger, in the spirit of Elijah the prophet, who would “turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6). Then God went silent, for about 450 years.
That’s right. Nearly a half millennium went by until God’s word came again, this time through an angel, who spoke to Zechariah the priest, in Luke 1:11-20. He said:
“Your wife will bear a son, and you shall call his name John. . . . He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, . . .”
So much of that sounds familiar to you, as it would have to Zechariah. Elijah the prophet coming, restoring relationships within families – just as Malachi said. But notice what the angel adds: “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
Yes, God wants to restore family relationships, but more than that, He wants us to restore our relationship with Himself. The only path to this relationship meant that God was going to have to become human.
Restoring the Relationship by His Humanity and in His Death
In Luke 2, we see another angel appear (followed by an army of angels), this time to shepherds. They had an important message:
- First, this announcement was good news and full of joy.
- The newborn baby (Jesus) would be a Savior (because we need saving from our sins), Messiah (because we need God’s chosen One to show us the way), and Lord (because we need Him to be in charge).
- Finally, the angels announced a coming of peace.
But a forthcoming peace assumes that there was war. And war there was — a division between us and God. After all, God didn’t send Jesus to die for us when we were His friends, but while we were His enemies (Romans 5:10).
God didn’t send Jesus to stay as a tiny baby in His golden-fleece diaper. (You got that, Ricky Bobby?) Jesus came for one purpose – to die for our sins so that we can be in a right relationship with Him forever.
“For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.” (Hebrews 2:14)
The Relationship for Us Today
Of course, we see ourselves in this story – in the prophecy of Malachi, in the message to Zechariah, and the announcement to the shepherds. But let us not miss who we are: far from being the heroes, we are the rebellious ones who need our hearts turned toward the Lord.
On our own, we can’t do this. Outside of the His grace and mercy, we would remain separated from God today and forever. But thanks be to God that He loved us enough to send Jesus (John 3:16).
In Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, “For though God is a great king, it is not his wish to live at a distance from his subjects.”
And what does this mean for us? We must remember that the Christmas message isn’t just for December. The Christmas message – that we are hopelessly separated from God, but He worked to restore our relationship with Him, a restoration that cost the Son His life – is needed all year long.
There is one clear call from God for us – to spread the gospel and to make disciples. How will you do this in your everyday relationships in 2016?
We must be winsome, but also feel the urgency. As Dr. Ramesh Richard said while teaching a Grace Church earlier this month, “The gospel is not good news if it gets there too late.”
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)