This morning, as I was up early reading, Kaleb woke up and came and cuddled with me. It is Christmas Eve and since this is only his second Christmas in the US in his seven years of life he does not always understand the unspoken signs that Christmas has arrived since they are so different from what we have in Tanzania. So we started talking about Christmas Eve, Christmas day, what we are celebrating, why we give gifts, etc. It is one of those quiet moments that I value so much with my children when I get to share without the constant background noise that seems to invade the life of a family of five.
Mostly Kaleb and I talked about why we give gifts and what gift to us does Christmas represent which is the most important gift of all. Today I want to look at the amazing gift we receive on Christmas by reflecting on the second title bestowed on Christ through the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2-7, Mighty God. Feel free to check out my reflections on Wonderful Councilor here. Walter Brueggemann focuses in on two major points with this name. The first is that the term Mighty refers to military might so that Jesus is being recognized as the Lord of Hosts or as the prince over the forces of the heavenly realm. The second point is that Jesus is a carrier of the divine. It was an understanding in the nation of Israel that the king was the connection point between the people and God, and therefore was a carrier of the divine. Jesus works to take this a step further in that he is not just a connection between the people and God, but by being divine himself, he carriers the spirit of life inside of himself and brings it as a gift to all people through his birth.
Psalm 103:3-5 talks about what this new gift of life is like. Jesus comes to forgive, heal, redeem, satisfy our desires with good things, and crown us with love and compassion (emphasis added). Jesus, as the carrier of the divine, brings us these gifts on Christmas. Does this match up with the gifts that we normally feel like we are getting on Christmas?
When I was a youth director I would take the youth Christmas shopping a few Saturdays before Christmas with the goal of having some fun and giving the youth a chance to buy Christmas presents for their families. We certainly had fun, but I am not sure how many presents were purchased for their family members J. It was a crazy time of the year to be at the mall because at that time of year the mall was full of hurried, harassed, harried people trying to get ready for Christmas, trying to get ready for a life giving Christ by finding the perfect thing for others.
We do this too often. We are trying to buy our way into this life we have been promised by the birth of a Mighty God onto earth, when it will never be possible. I have enjoyed over the last several years the shift I have seen towards experiences over things, but I don’t think we are quite there yet because the focus is still on a fulfilment by something temporary, just as the Israelites made the mistake of trying to find security in an earthly king who would one day pass away.
I hope that we can focus even for a few moments this year on receiving the gift of a Mighty God, the gift of a life giver, and reimagine what responding to that gift should look like by thinking of how we can…
· Give of ourselves to others
· Give ourselves a break (let’s stop being afraid of missing out)
· Give ourselves in worship* to God
How can we give life to others in a variety of ways so that this world can be filled with life as God intended it to be instead of the death of morals, death of community, death of individuals who have been overwhelmed by lack of connection, death of authenticity and honest living, death of caring for those outside of our tribe? The list of precious things dying could go on and on, but today we get to receive a gift of life as a Mighty God is born as a new baby. And that is the greatest Christmas gift of all.
*Christmas time in Tanzania is always marked, not by giving so many things, but by spending time in worship (often all day on Christmas day or multiple days around Christmas). I miss that sometimes.