The Saviour Reigns!
I think we need a campaign that aims to rid the world of the treacly sentimentality that surrounds Christmas celebrations. It makes the whole event like a fairy tale, a sweet story, lovely for children, that we can get a little misty-eyed over ourselves, and then can pack away with the tree, the baubles and the nativity scene and get on with life again just as it has always been. When we make Christmas sentimental, we successfully set aside the great claim of the event of Christmas over us. All that is required of us is a bit of goose-bumpiness and a sweet dollop of niceness.
Because what happened at Christmas does have a great claim on us. What God did in sending His Son was more than a show for us to emote over. We can’t simply go back to life the way it has always been. Christmas is an upsetting, over-turning, casting down time when God marches into the middle of history to strong-arm a radical and irreversible change. God will not let things stand as they are; He will have His world His way. And that puts us in a crisis – will we be for what’s He’s doing, or against it?
Isaac Watts captures the urgency of Christmas for us when he gets us singing, “Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns!” (He wrote that hymn as a version of Psalm 98.) A saviour and reigning go together – the grace of God is not His simply feeling pathos for a broken world; it is God acting from the reserves of His own being to rid the world of the reign of sin, death and evil, and to re-establish it in all rightness. And this is what the coming of the Son of God in human flesh bones is for.
These are the real “reasons for the season” (1 John 4:14). “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 3:8). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 4:10). “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice that takes away our sin” (Galatians 4:4-5). “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons…” (Hebrews 2:14-15). “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
And those who see this, who are gripped by the grace and love of God in this – well everything is turned upside down for them. Life is now one lived under and for the rule of Saviour. Our life is no longer our own, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.