The Joy of Certainty

Tradition, whether cultural, religious, or specifically personal has always been an important part of who I am. The existence of what we call “tradition” provides hope, security, and stability. With tradition there is always something to look forward to in anticipation. As I get older I find that “tradition” keeps me looking ahead, looking beyond the present, and gives me energy when I seem to be lagging. This is no truer than it is with the Christmas season.

For many years making a Wish List was one of my many Christmas traditions I enjoyed with unrestrained effort. As a child, the arrival of the Sears Wish Book signaled the start of list making. When I outgrew that I turned to catalogs from Orvis, Cabela’s, and Gander Mountain. Instinctively, though, I always knew the emphasis of these lists rested on the “wish” part. No matter, it was exciting to dream and pretend; imagining “what if”! Wishing is just that though, wishing. It has no certainty. It generally has no real substance.

As I was reflecting on the birth of Christ this Christmas season while studying Luke’s Gospel, it occurred to me how much of our lives are spent wishing; wishing for things to be “better” or at least different. Even as I pray and hear others pray, it seems like so much of it is “God, I wish you would…” with an almost predisposed attitude of a Christmas Wish List that we assume most likely won’t happen.

When Luke determined to write his account of Christ’s life he wrote “…so that you may know the exact truth…” (Luke 1:4). The account he composed about Christ’s birth, the event we celebrate at Christmas, was written with details full of certainty and precise accuracy. In the person of Jesus we do not need to wish at Christmas, as Luke records with full assurance of who Jesus is and what He came to do as He systematically records the various heavenly encounters surrounding the Advent of Christ.

Luke 1:32-33 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary’s encounter with the angel, Gabriel, is our first Christmas promise. Jesus is the Son of God. Being the “son” of God, means that Jesus is the same essence and the exact same attributes as God, and therefore is God; God, good and gracious, loving and merciful, God.

In Him the promise of blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 1:3) finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the One who will reign as King eternally. Jesus is an eternal King with no threats to His reign, no scandal to unseat His power, and no fear to an end to blessing in His kingdom.

Luke 2:6-7 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The second certainty we find in Jesus is that of His full humanity. Luke records Jesus’ birth in utter simplicity. He was born in a completely normal, human manner. His mother’s pregnancy was full term, her delivery as was expected, and His entrance into the world in a lowly, humble manner. Jesus’ understanding of humanity is no mere attribute of omniscience, but of experience. When we cry out to Jesus, He has understanding. When our lives are interrupted and thrown off course by unexpected events, they come from the hand of the One who knows the intricacies of the human existence and what we truly need. He came to us, became one of us, and would one day die for us.

Luke 2:10-14 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This, my favorite part of the traditional Christmas story, records the best news ever announced: Peace with God. The angels, accompanied by the physical manifestation of the glory of God, proclaim that baby Jesus is the Lord; the Lord who came as the promised, anointed, messiah, to be the rescuer, the redeemer, the Savior. The Lord Himself came to bring an offer of peace. We, who are at odds with our Creator, sinful before the Holy One, estranged from God, have been offered terms of peace. God Himself came so that we could be reconciled to Him.

Peace with God, mercy and grace from God, and nearness to God are not items for a wish list. They are the reality of Christmas for those who believe. There is no greater joy than that at Christmas…and all year.

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