Last night, federal authorities identified Anthony Quinn Warner as the person responsible for the Christmas morning bombing in Nashville. He died in the blast, which caused massive damage to forty-one buildings in the downtown area.
However, no one else was killed. That’s because six officers risked their lives to evacuate nearby residents from several apartments before the explosion.
Police Chief John Drake said, “These officers didn’t care about themselves—they didn’t think about that. They cared about the citizens of Nashville.”
Their courageous grace is exactly the message of Christmas.
A present I especially treasure
One of the presents my wife and I most appreciated this year was an electronic device to which our sons and their families can upload photos. When we pass it in the kitchen, Janet and I pause to watch images of our grandchildren from the time they were born. I could look at these pictures for hours. From the moment of their births, our sons were the joy of our hearts. It is the same with our grandchildren.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not necessarily share our sentiment. Photos of our grandchildren would be less compelling to you than photos of your family. If, however, they were pictures of people who grew up to make a great impact on the world, you would view them differently.
Childhood images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., or Sandra Day O’Conner would gain your instant attention. Except for family members and close friends, we honor a person’s birth after we know what they did with their lives.
The first Christmas was no different.
The angels gathered that Bethlehem night “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest'” (Luke 2:13–14), for they knew who this baby was and what he would do. The shepherds joined their wonder and worship because they were told that the infant was “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). However, no one came from Bethlehem or nearby Jerusalem to join their celebration.
To everyone else, this was just another baby.
“Everything changes when we see the face of God”
We now know better.
In Miracles, C. S. Lewis called Christmas “the central event in the history of the Earth.” He noted that “every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.” Lewis was right: every miracle of God prior to Christmas was to prepare the world for the coming of our Savior. Every miracle today exhibits his presence in our world or results from the omnipotence he demonstrated.
Frederick Buechner similarly observed in The Hungering Dark, “When that child was born the whole course of history was changed. That is a fact as hard and blunt as any fact. Art, music, literature, our culture itself, our political institutions, our whole understanding of ourselves and our world—it is impossible to conceive of how differently world history would have developed if that child had not been born.”
Max Lucado made this miracle personal: “Everything changes when we see the face of God. He came with tears, too. He knows the burden of a broken heart. He knows the sorrow life can bring. He could have come as a shining light or a voice in the clouds, but he came as a person. Does God understand you? Look into God’s face and be assured. Find the answer in Bethlehem.”
But Lewis, Buechner, and Lucado could offer such observations because they knew that the baby grew up to walk on water, heal leprous bodies, open blind eyes, die on our cross, and rise from our grave. They looked at Christmas through the lens of Calvary.
For those who agree, every day is Christmas.
Christmas through the eyes of Calvary
How quickly the world moves on. The after-Christmas sales began the moment Christmas was over. The decorations are going back into attics, the holiday back on the shelf. All eyes are on the new year and our hopes that 2021 will heal what 2020 has broken in our world.
But a vaccine, even one as welcome as the COVID-19 vaccines, cannot prevent all disease and mortality. An economic recovery cannot prevent all poverty and pain. Progress toward racial and economic justice cannot prevent all racism and injustice.
It is when we see Christmas through the eyes of Calvary that we find the hope our souls need most.
Do you know that the Baby of Bethlehem loves you as much today as the day he was born so you could be born again? Do you know that he loves you as much today as the day he died so you could live forever? Do you know that he is as real in your world today as the day he first entered your world?
When “I will truly be able to love the world”
To our secularized culture, Christmas is about us rather than Jesus. To those who know better, every day is about him.
Henri Nouwen was right: “The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world—free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless; free also to receive love from people and to be grateful for all the signs of God’s presence in the world. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”
Do you fully believe that you are loved today?
NOTE: Today, it’s challenging not to think about what 2021 may hold, but I know one fact will remain true: “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8). Because he is in control, we can confidently yet compassionately seek to change the culture for his glory and our culture’s good. Thanks to a generous donor, we have received another $25,000 matching grant for our end-of-year gifts! When you give today, your donation will be DOUBLED (up to $175,000) by our generous matching grants. Please consider donating today.