I have been using the book, Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus, as part of my devotions this month.  I have gotten so much out of it while reading through it.  I have not progressed very far through the book as each chapter is so packed with stuff.  Each chapter has something to do with the Christmas story and preparing our hearts for worship.  Each chapter is written by different authors and taken from a sermon preached at some point.

Today I read, “The Gifts of Christmas” by Tim Keller.  This chapter alone is worth the price of the book (available from Amazon for under $10).   The Scripture passage used as the preface to this chapter is Luke 1:39-45;

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

God did not just give us His son at Christmas, which in and of itself is amazing, He also gave us truth.  This truth will transform us if we really take it in.  The truth comes from the highlighted part – Mary believed what God said about the human incarnation and it changed her life.  If we believe in this same truth and make it the center of our lives, we will be changed.

Mr. Keller goes on to explain that when we open the gift of Christmas, we are really getting several gifts – vulnerability for intimacy, comfort for suffering, passion for justice and power over prejudice.  Wow, when one really looks at what comes with the birth of Christ in the flesh, it is really life changing.

C.S. Lewis puts it like this – “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and probably broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to on one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable.”  (Lewis, The Four Loves)  I pray that this will never happen to my heart, but that Christ will so transform my heart that I am willing to let my heart be broken by the things of Christ and His direction.

But when one allows Christ in and learns to love in such a way that your heart brakes, suffering also enters into one’s life.  But if one has learned to treasure Christ, then there is  a hope in Christ to endure that suffering. And as we continue to open the gift of Christmas, we have a comfort to deal with suffering because we see the willingness of Jesus to enter this world, my world,  of suffering and suffer with us and for us.  Dorothy Sayers puts it like this;

“For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine.  Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair.  He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from Himself.  He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death.  WHen he was a man, he played the man.  He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it was worthwhile.” (Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post Christian World).

When one thinks about just these two aspects alone and realizes the whole implication of them – one’s life will be transformed.    My prayer for my life, my family and friends is that we come to know this truth and our  lives to be transformed –

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are bein.g transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit-  II Corinthians 3:18