I know I may be stepping on sacred territory here, but hear me out.
This is the time of year when you see the phrase Jesus is the reason for the season displayed on church boards, Christmas ornaments, and seasonal art. It makes sense. The catchphrase helps the reader’s thoughts focus on a very important story.
A teenage girl never has sex, yet gets impregnated by a spirit. (And not just any spirit – God’s Holy Spirit.) She then gives birth to a son in a barn with animals because there is no room in a proper inn. He’s given the name Jesus, and grows to become the ultimate hero who literally saves the world.
It’s compelling material.
Then there’s this popular verse that supports how He may be the reason for the season: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
Even though His birth didn’t actually take place in December, (I’ll let you look that up) the phrase is an easy way to point the reader’s thoughts to the beautiful salvation message. The focus on Jesus makes sense in this context since his time on earth meant everything when it comes to eternal life. But was that all it was for?
Was there a bigger vision?
Would Jesus say he’s the reason for the season?
Let’s look further.
In first century practices, the Jewish people were so focused on sin management that they lost the relationship they were wired for – the one God longed for.
Interestingly, John 3:16 actually starts with the bigger picture: For God so loved the world.
Did Jesus’s death and resurrection get rid of the sin/shame barrier that prevented people from coming to God? Yes, but it was always so folks could get past that separation and live in something greater. The end goal wasn’t the get out of hell free card. It was the enter into something new card. Something so spectacular that after three years of witnessing it, Jesus’s followers still couldn’t fully wrap their minds around it.
When you read through one of the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples, you see how often he talks about the Father. (John 14-17) Phrases like:
- “If you really knew me, you’d know the Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
- “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
- “The words I say to you are not my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.“
- “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
- “I have made you known…and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
All of Jesus’s life and ministry was spent showing the world what the Father looks like, and how His kingdom operates. Every touch, miraculous healing, kind word, encouragement, empowerment, and forgiving act were to point to someone else. The Father.
The Father wants unfettered relationship with everyone. The kind of relationship we all wish we could have with another person: trusting, secure, fun, and intimate.
While I’m not saying we shouldn’t retell the Christmas story, I do propose that we emphasize the most wondrous, riotous, marvelous part of it, that God so loved the world. And because of that love, relationship with Him can be an ongoing, transforming, full-on adventure. It’s not just about forgiveness of sins (God wanted us to get past what tripped us up), it’s about relating to the most brilliant, happy, out-of-the-box kind of Being the universe will ever know.
And that relationship is meant to bring us into our fullest identity.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1
Enjoy the beautiful truth of a loving Father this Christmas.