My wife and I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Monday and the movie 1917 yesterday. The first is the last of nine films in the “space myth” franchise; the second is a deeply moving encounter with the horrors of World War I.
No one but those who made the films has been to the real world of Star Wars, but that fact has not kept millions of fans from seeing the movies, reading the novels, buying the merchandise, and visiting the theme parks. By contrast, my grandfather served in World War I and witnessed tragedies so gruesome that he refused to speak of them after the war ended.
This Christmas week, we’re asking what Christmas can teach our post-Christian culture about Christ. We have focused on the power, humility, grace, and hope of Christmas. Today, we’ll consider the reality and relevance of Christmas for our world all year long.
What the brokenness of the world proves
A mother and two children died after falling from a parking garage in Boston on Christmas Day. Investigators now believe that the mother threw her children from the building, then jumped to her own death.
ESPN college football reporter Ed Aschoff was a rising star on television and set to be married in April. Then he contracted pneumonia on November 30 while covering Ohio State’s victory over Michigan. He died Tuesday on his thirty-fourth birthday.
A massive redwood tree fell in Muir Woods National Monument in California on Christmas Eve, killing a man who was walking one of the trails. A typhoon struck the Philippines on Christmas Day, killing at least twenty-eight people. A passenger plane crashed this morning shortly after takeoff in Kazakhstan, killing at least twelve people.
The Coast Guard is searching for a helicopter with seven people onboard that failed to return from a tour in Hawaii. And a girl was pronounced dead yesterday at Los Angeles International Airport after she suffered a heart attack while aboard a plane bound for Seattle.
Clearly, the brokenness of our world demonstrates our need for help our world cannot produce.
One of Satan’s subtlest strategies
Reflecting on Christmas, Oswald Chambers asked: “Have I allowed my personal life to become a ‘Bethlehem’ for the Son of God?” Then he noted: “The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.”
Chambers concluded: “God manifest in the flesh—that is what is made profoundly possible for you and me by the Redemption.”
Here’s the point: we cannot be like Christ without the help of Christ.
God’s ambition for us is not that we would try harder to avoid sin and imitate Christ. The character of Jesus—”love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”—is the “fruit of the Spirit” and thus made possible by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
It is only when we “walk by the Spirit” that we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16). As Chambers notes, “To walk in the light means that everything that is of the darkness drives me closer into the center of the light.”
One of Satan’s subtlest strategies is tempting us to resist his temptations in our strength. In this way, he uses our desire to be godly against us. The more we resolve to do better, the less we depend on the only Power that can truly make us better.
Then Christianity becomes just another religion—another attempt by humans to reach up to God—instead of a relationship in which our Father transforms us to “become like his Son” (Romans 8:29 NLT).
“The central miracle asserted by Christians”
How can we be certain that our Father can do this? Because of the reality of Christmas.
C. S. Lewis: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”
Lewis explains: “Every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character”—i.e., gravity, three-dimensionality, the laws of physics, etc. In the same way, “every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation”—i.e., the fact that God can enter nature and do in it what he wishes.
If he could enter human flesh, he can heal human flesh. If he could feel physical pain, he can help us with physical pain. If he could withstand temptation, he can empower us to withstand temptation.
In short, if God could become one of us, he can make us one with himself.
What Kirk Douglas told Johnny Carson
A number of years ago, the actor Kirk Douglas was a guest on Johnny Carson’s late-night television show. The two celebrities discussed the experience of being recognized everywhere they went, with people pestering them because of their fame.
Then Douglas told about the time he was driving his car and stopped to pick up a hitchhiking sailor. When the sailor opened the door, looked in and saw the famous actor, his jaw dropped and he exclaimed, “Do you know who you are?”
Douglas said that it was a good question, one he’d been thinking about ever since.
Christmas tells us who God thinks you can be. Do you agree?