Does your Christmas begin and end in the manger?
Many folks are like Ricky Bobby in the movie, Talladega Nights. When it comes to Jesus, they "like the baby version best."
Baby Jesus fits right in with colored lights, hot chocolate, Frosty the Snowman, Home Alone, brightly decorated homes, and Christmas trees draped in tinsel. Baby Jesus does not interfere with Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, and the delightful spectacle of Christmas morning. In short, baby Jesus doesn't upset our world.
I am not pooh-poohing an American Christmas, but I am afraid that Jesus gets lost among the wrapping and lights. I am afraid that too often we leave him in the manger.
Isaiah won't allow this. Isaiah saw what we will one day see . . . the Messiah in all his glory.
Beware, this is no "baby Jesus." This is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the one whom Isaiah said would stride across the world stage with the lifeblood of his enemies spattered on his garments (Isaiah 63:3). This is the One who will "trample down the peoples" in his anger, make them drunk with his wrath, and pour out their lifeblood on the earth (Isaiah 63:6).
Isaiah shakes us out of our dreams of a white Christmas. He makes us forget "snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree." He reminds us that the real gift -- Messiah -- will not usher in an annual day of presents, but the final Day of the Lord.
Christmas is the advent of Messiah. It begins in the manger, but we must look beyond the stable. We must see beyond the silent night. The footsteps of shepherds racing toward the manger are harbingers of the stomping boots of the hosts of the Almighty assembling on the battlefield.
The Day of the LORD will come. The unbelieving world will be aghast. Isaiah sees it:
How do we communicate this message?
How do we talk about the Day of the LORD with people bent on scoring the best deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? How do we communicate "dismay ... agony ... anguish like a woman in labor ... faces aflame ... cruel, with wrath and fierce anger ... land desolated ... sinners destroyed"?
How do we share this message with a people:
Who are trapped in the Christmas hustle and bustle?
Who sip hot cocoa while gazing at twinkling lights on a tree?
Who want "It's A Wonderful Life" more than they want the Wonderful Counselor?
Who know war only through media outlets or video game conflicts?
Whose answer to a desolate land and people in shock is to ignore the warning, surf to another website, or line up another game of Fortnite?
Who are offended that God gets angry?
How do we share this message on a Monday? No one is thinking about judgment on Monday. And how do we share this truth on Friday? Everyone knows that the Day of the LORD does not "play well" on the gateway to the weekend.
Isaiah helps us. Isaiah does not coax or flatter. He trusts God. He announces the truth. He looks for Messiah. He lives with confident expectation, anchored to these words:
Isaiah knows that the child in the manger is so much more than "baby Jesus." So does C.S. Lewis. Using the voice of Queen Lucy in his story, The Last Battle, Lewis writes,
"Once in our world too, a stable once had something inside it
that was bigger than our whole world."
This is true . . . and because the One within the manger is so much more than "baby Jesus" we bow down to him, and we praise him, and we submit our lives afresh to him . . . the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
"Once in our world too . . ." from Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle. New York: HarperCollins. Reprint edition. 2002. Page 177.