Sunday, December 17, 2006

"And Man Will Live For Evermore, Because Of Christmas Day"

I have a friend in New Zealand. In fact, in Christ Church, New Zealand. What a wonderful name for a city! In fact, again, I have several friends in New Zealand. New friends, perhaps, but the bond has been forged. We all met at a wedding in Carmel Valley, California in June. Remarkably warm, fun, and devoutly Christian people, they will be in my life, heart and mind from now on, even though we have no guarantee of ever overcoming the geography that separates us. We are, however, able to stay connected by e-mail until...who knows?

I single out one friend here, in particular, because he sent me an e-mail written by a man from Wellington, New Zealand by the name of Nigel Irwin. He is the author of the incredibly wonderful piece of writing that follows, and he has graciously granted me permission to share it with you here. It is timely. It is true. And it shares the lament of people from two completely different parts of the world who are saddened by the total commercialization of what should be our most sacred holiday:

“And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day.”

The Calypso Carol hints at the enormous significance of the day we celebrate
as Christ’s birthday. Yet as I heard it on a popular, mainstream radio
station this morning, I saw no-one stopping to consider what those words
mean, no-one pausing in gratitude and certainly no-one smiling and singing
along.

There are 10 days now until Christmas Day. I’m trying my best to be numb to
the materialism, hype and manic busy-ness of Christmas this year – trying
instead to consider deeply and often, the immense implications of a King
born to us, by His virgin mother and eternal Father.

You can stand back and observe what happens to people at Christmas – and it
is both fascinating and quite sad. Firstly, the wallets, cheque-books and credit-cards come out. Spending in NZ goes through the proverbial roof throughout December in preparation of mass gift-exchanging and indulgent overeating/drinking to take
place on Dec 25. People crowd into shopping malls and supermarkets, elbowing
their way through crowds as they amass their merchandise haul. Most will have faces
set in stone, teeth gritted and jaws set as they determinedly strive to get
this madness over with as quickly as possible.

There is incredible pressure on families at Christmas time. I know, it is nothing new, but the more I think about it, the more I am saddened by it. Finance companies do a roaring trade at Christmas as cash-strapped families take out loans to pay for Christmas gifts and season fare. Their repayments often take them through until the following Christmas and sometimes beyond, until they end up operating on a revolving line of credit… just for Christmas.

Inevitably, some families crack under the pressure – Woman’s Refuge shelters fill up, couples separate and divorce, and the children who unwittingly become embroiled in all of this, learn that along with Christmas stockings and brightly wrapped boxes under the tree, come harsh words, arguments, violence and tension.

All, in the name of Christmas.

On the radio the other day, the DJ implored his listeners to remember what Christmas was really all about – the big guy in the red suit, delivering cheer and goodwill. Since red suits don’t seem to be the logical apparel of a nomadic Prophet, I am forced to believe this DJ was referring to Santa Claus. Oh the pity of it.

I try not to be so precious and jealous with Christian festivals and holidays, but it really brasses me off that the greater population can take Christmas, the celebration of hope born to mankind, and turn it into a frenzied mish-mash of busy-ness, debt, tension, drunkenness, consumerism, and materialism.

Somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to put aside the most precious Christmas gift ever given – the gift of eternal hope and extravagant love. Like a young child sitting under the Christmas tree, we’ve unwrapped the Christ-child and immediately cast Him aside, choosing instead to play with brightly-coloured wrapping paper that will add to tomorrow’s trash.

It feels great to give quality gifts. I can imagine the smile on God’s face as He prepared His Son for us – knowing how good indeed, this gift would be. I also imagine that smile turn into desperate sadness as He then watches us completely miss the point and turn Christmas into the very thing
it was NOT designed to be.

“And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day.”

That is the real gift. Hope eternal, life everlasting. I hope and pray you will all take time out to dwell on this, and experience true joy and richest blessings - to all of you, I wish a Christ-filled Christmas!

Nigel Irwin

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