December 25th is Christmas on the religious calendar, but few today celebrate the coming of Christ. For many it now means something else: an excuse to party and forget the winter blues. Christmas now resembles the pagan festivities of the traditional mid winter excesses of pre Christian times.
In fact December 25th is not actually the birthday of Jesus Christ. The religious and political powers chose not to disrupt the traditional pagan calendar of the masses, but to adopt it. They chose to accept what existed in order to promote a new order by degrees. They avoided total confrontation, root and branch revolution. A classic political compromise to keep everyone happy.
But this way of thinking and acting is not God’s way of thinking and acting.
God’s way is to challenge the sinfulness and evil of human conduct. It is to present it with the stark truth. It is to call black black, and white white. It is to show us the truth, that we might give up and forsake the bad old ways, in order to pursue the new way: his way of truth and life in Christ.
Religion is man’s way of doing spirituality. But God’s way is Jesus Christ – his example and his teaching. That is evident in the New Testament as a whole, but it is particularly addressed in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrew believers.
In Hebrews, Paul shows us that Jesus Christ was the real meaning of the Old Testament ritual and religion expressed in the Law and the Temple worship. He is the “new and living way” Paul writes in chapter 10, verse 20. And in verse 9 he says that “he taketh away the first, that he may establish the second”.
God takes away the first covenant with its ritualistic and religious practices such as animal slaughter that he may establish a new, second covenant – a covenant which is by faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith in Christ; not carrying out religious, ritualistic observances, but trusting and obeying the teaching of the God who came in the likeness of a fallen human being.
The story of the woman, Mary, becoming pregnant as the Holy Spirit came upon her according to the word of the Angel who visited her – this story is indeed pregnant with meaning.
God’s word comes to us – that is Jesus Christ. [John chapter 1 and verse 1 following]. God himself becomes the living message about a living faith in a living God. God becomes flesh in Jesus Christ, and is born as a man.
And we are born as children of God by the same process: by the living and abiding word of God coming to our hearts – the reality of Jesus Christ accepted in our sinful souls.
John explains in chapter one of his Gospel account in these words. Speaking of Jesus, John says:
He came unto his own, but his own received him not. [that is he came to the religious, ritualistic Jews, but they refused him]. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ……… full of grace and truth.
So we all have a choice at this Christmas time. To follow the pagan roots of the traditional festive making at this time of year. To follow the religious and ritualistic conceptions of Christian faith peddled by religious organisations with hierarchies, with titles and positions of power in this world.
Or to follow the way laid down in the New Testament of the Bible. To believe in Jesus Christ as God come in flesh, as the one and final sacrifice for our sins; as the only possible sacrifice for our sins; as the example to give up living for self and this world’s sinful, selfish ways. Instead to live now according to his example and his teaching, taking him as God, and him alone.
Not man’s false ways, nor man’s sinful, foolish ways. But God’s way as demonstrated in Jesus Christ. As we read in the account of Jesus conversation with Thomas, recorded in John 14,6:
How can we know the way ?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.
Jesus is the only way to God – he himself said so.