It could well be that our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, some 2,000 years ago. That, after all, is the basis of our celebrating Christmas. But, important as it is that Jesus was born on whatever day it was that He was born (and for sanity’s sake let’s just presume it was the 25th of December), I believe the fact of His crucifixion far supersedes that of His birth. If we are to celebrate days, we therefore ought to be celebrating the day of Christ’s crucifixion more than the day of His birth.
I do not wish to dampen anyone’s spirits here, but I believe the church must begin to move away from the frivolousness into which churchdom has been cast. Celebrating Christmas is all right, and indeed I believe that for the believer every infinitesimal second in their lives should be a moment of celebration. We have so much to celebrate! And celebrating our salvation even physically is no sin at all.
But we should be celebrating with a sense of maturity in our hearts.
When we look at the scriptures we realize that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus – for what? It was so Jesus could become the sacrificial Lamb. It was so He could die for our sins. Jesus did not come to earth to open bottles of champagne, no. He came specifically to die, to die for our sins.
The death of Jesus, therefore, is of far greater importance than His birth. Had Jesus been born and not died on that cross, nothing would have changed in our relationship with God. To date we would still be sinners in God’s sight. Had Jesus not come to the right decision at Gethsemane, believe me, things would be a whole lot different for us today.
But thank God that Jesus – worthy is He! – made the decision to accept the Father’s will. It was God’s will that Jesus be tortured and killed for our sins (Isaiah 53), and that was exactly what happened because Jesus accepted that responsibility, although He knew it would cost Him dearly. That is why He is worthy of all praise and glory.
Today, through believing in the sacrifice of Christ on that cross we stand righteous in God’s sight. Praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ! So much worthy is He!
And now God in His incredible love for us calls upon us to not only believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, but to identify our lives with Christ’s in His sufferings and death so that we may experience and share in His glory and power. He wants us to be victorious over the flesh and sin, just as Christ was victorious. If we are to have a taste of Christ’s glory in our lives, then we need to realize that we have to lose in this life, just as Jesus lost. But this loss is temporal.
If we are not willing to walk in this identification with Christ, we stand to experience the real loss. The real loss for the believer is when we are only content with evading the fire of hell. Here we will lose in eternity. When we live a lifestyle that simply wants to stay saved but holding onto our lives, we will lose heavily in the Kingdom to come. Better we lose our lives now.
“13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Cor. 3:13-15
The “work” that Paul is talking of here is the work of identifying our lives with Christ’s by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. Here Paul was addressing a carnal church, the Corinthian church. When the Corinthians first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ they cast off the flesh and all its works. But lately they had begun to cuddle the flesh once again!
That is why God calls on us to not only receive Jesus into our lives, but to also have a revelation of Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection in our hearts. Only then can we gladly identify our lives fully with Christ’s death on the cross – and with His resurrection life.
Then and only then can we celebrate any aspect of our salvation in truth and in the spirit. And we are called upon to celebrate every second of our lives!!
[Below: Late evening, cross-country buses begin arriving in Dar es Salaam. Some will arrive as late as 10 p.m. depending on the distance they have had to travel]