Spending the Christmas season surrounded by friends and family may be the norm, but I’m doing it in a very unconventional way.
Last week, I had hip surgery. It’s a six-week recovery which means I’ll be laid up for a few weeks. I can’t sit up or walk, so I’m mostly lying flat on my back or stomach. My husband is in Physician Assistant school full time, so I’m spending the first couple weeks recovering at my childhood home… a wonderful alternative to being home alone for days at a time.
Inside the two-story on Rosecrest, my mom buzzes about talking to me between household chores and tending to my long list of needs (and I must admit… I’m pretty high maintenance these days!). My parents, sister, brother-in-law and Grandma all live here. So there is always someone to talk to when I’m awake.
I haven’t had to spend a moment alone.
Being around so many loved ones at Christmas time convinces me that the Christmas season is best spent with those you love. In fact, I think all of life is best spent in community.
And we have the Christmas story to remind us of that. This crowded house reminds me a little bit of the first Christmas and the kind of community God calls us toward.
We are saved through relationship.
Every year, when we unpack the ceramic nativity displayed above my parent’s entertainment center, there isn’t just a figure of baby Jesus in a manger. We set up little figurines of His parents – Mary and Joseph. And we don’t stop there. We add the wise men, the shepherds, and an angel too. Soon the scene is crowded. The little baby Jesus is dwarfed by the people surrounding Him.
I’ve stared at the miniature nativity and considered whether or not that defeats the purpose. I mean, Christmas is about the Baby Jesus. So why is the Christmas story cluttered with so many other characters?
Why? For the same reason Jesus came to this earth. He came for Mary. He came for Joseph. He came for you. And He came for me.
The crowded nativity scene tells us a cardinal truth about the gospel: Jesus came for relationships…. to give us a relationship with God. We were made for relationship and we are saved through relationship.
“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
We connect to God through the person of Jesus. Our God is immensely personal. All throughout Scripture we see Jesus calling us to Himself, to His person, saying “I am.” He revealed Himself to us through His flesh, through the incarnation. It’s not enough to believe a list of facts about Jesus. He wants you to know who He is…. “I am,” He tells us.
I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35). I am the Light of the World (John 8:12). I am the Door (John 10:9). I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). I am the True Vine (John 15:1).
Our lives are not meant to be lived alone.
This emphasis on relationships… the very idea of a relational God… is counter cultural in our modern society. We are told that our lives should be about what we want. We drive our cars alone and go where we want to go. We go shopping alone to buy what we want to buy for ourselves.
Families don’t even fight over the remote to the television anymore. We tailor our experiences with personalized devices choosing what we want to look at on individual screens.
Individuals are seen as a result of their decisions in life, and even relationships become an accessory choice. Friends are often closer than family because you can be in control and choose who you want to be friends with. It’s your life. It’s your choice. But this emphasis on individuality comes at a cost. We’ve become lonely and isolated, so consumed with self that we become a stranger to the other.
Is this really the gospel way of life?
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)
The gospel is relational. It is the opposite of self-centered. It calls us out of ourselves and into community. The Advent is more than a model that God used to save us. It was His way to know us and for us to know Him. The gospel is not just for one person. It’s a gospel for the shepherds, for the wise men, and the innkeeper who had no room. It’s a gospel to be proclaimed to all people. It’s a gospel for you and it’s a gospel for the other.
He wants to be with you here and now.
Why did Jesus come? He didn’t just come to save us from our sins. He didn’t just come to get us to heaven. He didn’t even come just to change the way we live our lives. He came to live with us.
He came down. He invaded this planet. He said enough is enough. I’m coming to get you. I’m coming for you. And you. And you.
Not only did He invade time and space. He invaded our hearts. He doesn’t just want you to believe He came 2000 years ago. He wants to be with you here and now.
And guess what? When He ascended, the Holy spirit came. God NEVER left. He came 2000 years ago. He is here NOW. And He wants a relationship… with you.
Come! Let us adore Him! Let us crowd around the nativity together and enjoy the gospel of salvation that is shared with all believers, a gospel that brings us into relationship with our Savior.
We are not alone. God is here. God is with us.