Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why We Celebrate Birth

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Day
December 25, 2008
John 1:1-14

We celebrate birth because with birth there is new life. Where there is new life there is opportunity. There is hope, there is joy. With birth there is the promise of tomorrow.

When life is taken away there is sadness. It seems to suck out our hope. There was potential for so much and now it seems to be gone. There are times where we are relieved that our loved one is now free from tremendous suffering, but when your child is lost in the womb or infancy there doesn’t seem to be any reason for joy or hope. When your loved one is taken in the prime of their life you try to make sense of it. We celebrate birth; we celebrate life—when that is taken away, there is sorrow and sadness. We easily know why we celebrate birth.

But often something happens after that. We celebrate life in the birth of our children, in the birth of our relatives’ and friends’ children. But what happens after their birth? Do we feel that same joy and opportunity as they grow and live their lives? You’re not aware of your own birth, but you’re very aware of the life you live. Do you have joy and see opportunity every day of your life? Or do you just live, trying to get by?

Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter are the three Christian festivals which most distinguish what God says about our lives in comparison with what we often think about our lives. Humans throughout history have sought meaning in their lives in countless ways. How else can you explain the thousands of religions and belief systems? People seek meaning in all kinds of ways, trying to accomplish joy in their lives, seeking to capture the opportunity of life.

Some people gain their significance through their work. Some seek happiness in their children. Some search for contentment in various religions. Some attempt to find meaning in their lives by trying something new, hoping it will give them the joy they are lacking. Although there is variety in these things there is one thing at the center of them: the person seeking fulfillment. We are by nature the center of our own lives. When all is said and done, we seek joy and meaning in ourselves. When a baby is born, guess who’s at the center of attention? The baby is who everybody talks about and ogles over. But as we grow, we continue to make ourselves the center of attention for ourselves.

It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate birth and life. And it’s not that we shouldn’t seek to be happy and desire fulfillment. It’s that we’re going about it the wrong way. We’re looking inward, when God tells us that we ought to look outside of ourselves. Not by looking for meaning in manmade things, that’s the same as looking within ourselves. By looking at the specific way God gives us true fulfillment, ultimate joy, the greatest opportunity.

That’s why we celebrate Jesus’ birth. That’s why we give thanks for Good Friday. That’s why we rejoice in Easter. God tells us to get off ourselves and latch onto Christ. His birth, His life. Jesus’ birth gives true meaning to our birth. He was born that we may not die. Our birth is something indeed to celebrate, but there is only true opportunity in new birth. The Gospel reading gives true hope because of the second birth God gives us. It comes about because God chose to be born. Jesus was born of Mary so that we may be born of God.

We celebrate life, and we have every reason to. But there is the ultimate lost opportunity if our celebrating and search for meaning is joy apart from the one was born in a stable. There is the ultimate tragedy if our joy is not centered in the one who was born to live in order to die in our place and rise to guarantee us unending joy in heaven.

There’s a lot wrapped up in that little baby lying in a manger. The very Son of God. The salvation of the world. Hope that is secure because it’s hope in Him and not ourselves. True joy, because it’s joy in Him and what He has done for us, not what we seek to do. True life, because it is the life of God Himself, not just a temporal life. We celebrate life, but especially life in Christ. We celebrate being born, but especially being born of God. We celebrate Jesus’ birth because in doing so we celebrate His death and resurrection for our ultimate and eternal joy with God Himself. Amen.


No comments: