Yes, Virginia, there is a Christ Child.

There are fluffy red hats, the jingle bells, the piles of sale flyers added to the paper and the Elf on A Shelf. The real news that shook the celestial world at the time with shock waves and continues today is the Almighty God, the Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Creator of all entered our realm in obscurity.

Our busy lives, and not just holiday busy, but life busy, doing what we do to justify our existence, crowd out the Almighty reality that there is Someone who offers a way out of our pain, pride, frustration – God with us, Immanuel.

Our successful lives, in whatever way we measure success, are overshadowing the reality that God became man because we are unable to achieve true success without His redemption. Redemption from what? We might ask. Redemption from pride in ourselves, our achievements and our belongings. Redemption from our hopelessness. Redemption from our selfishness, our desperation and our sins.

Has the Christmas story become a fable, a tradition, a legend? Has it been thrown into the category of Easter bunny and the tooth fairy? OK for children, but not for mature intellectuals like us? What does the Christmas Story mean to us in May? Have we outgrown the God thing?

I say this to ones I love and care about who used to go to church and make time for God, but not now. Is He now on the shelf with the elf?

I grew up going to church and hearing about God and Jesus. I was always striving to be good enough – good enough to please my parents, and my teachers and God Himself. I knew I never quite made the grade, even when my pretending was successful enough to get by. One evening after my kids were in bed and husband was away, I watched Billy Graham on TV out of curiosity. His sermon sounded pretty much like what I had heard all along. Until the end when he asked the tough question. If you died tonight, would you go to heaven? There it was – the “never measuring up” thing in my heart. He explained that faith in Jesus as God made man was enough. He said to invite Him into my life and turn to Him. Let Him help me to be the person He wants me to be.

At that moment I gave up. I would never be good enough, but God would do it for me. All I had to do was humble myself to Him and accept His forgiveness and His redemption. My striving was over. Incredible gratitude replaced my inadequacy.

All along I had been trying to climb up the “down” escalator. By giving up and trusting His righteousness, I was riding the “up” escalator with endless gratitude. I at last understood what was “good” about Good Friday. Jesus paid it all, gave His all to connect personally with each of us. I understood that I could love God because He first loved us.

The Christmas symbol that persists with the meaning of the redemption of Christ (not the Babe, but the Risen Savior, who lives in us today) is the Christmas tree.

Facebook is aglow with pictures of newly decorated Tannenbaums. The mystery of God made man, dead and risen, persists in the symbol of the tree, evergreen. Red ribbons, berries and bows remind us of His shed blood. The tree is central to our decor, a central reminder of the connection God made with Man, evergreen, everlasting.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Sunday worship is the sign of God reaching out to us, and our reaching back. My gratitude is what drives me to church and to read the Bible to remind me that it is true: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” My everlasting life began that day. Let’s celebrate Christmas, God with us. Merry Christmas!

Scripture quoted includes Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:23, 1 John 4:19, Psalm 23:6 and John 3:16.

Ann VonHoorn of Cape Carteret is a Tideland News contributor.

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