Have Yourself a Sacramental Christmas
A sacrament is a visible image of God’s grace, a physical representation of a spiritual reality. In the Lutheran tradition we recognize two Sacraments, baptism and communion. Baptism is a tangible, visual, ritual that represents a believer’s participation in Christ’s death and resurrection. Communion is a visible, and edible, reminder of Jesus’ body and blood given to us for the forgiveness of sin. These sacraments have been ritualized with much pomp and circumstance, and our tradition can sometimes take away from the profound truth that these sacraments were originally very common things!
Washing and ritual cleansing were a daily Jewish practice. Baptism, therefore, wasn’t a new idea in the day of Jesus, but rather a common practice that was given a new meaning. The same is true with Communion. Jesus used bread and wine, both of which were consumed every day, to represent the New Covenant. When Jesus said, “Whenever you eat of this, and drink of this, remember me”, he wasn’t thinking of church services where we have a sip of grape juice and a nibble of bread. It was in the context that they would be eating bread and drinking wine every day! Whenever you eat and drink, remember me.
God is still in the sacramental business, He uses all sorts of physical, tangible, everyday things, to remind us of His love, purpose, and grace. I want to point out two Christmas sacraments for us to think about this holiday season; two normal, everyday things that can point us to Jesus, to remind us of what Christmas is all about.
First, presents! Everybody loves giving and receiving gifts at Christmas time, yet too often the Christian message looks down on presents, claiming they are a distraction or even an idol! In other words, presents are given a ‘bad wrap’, ha! What if, instead of seeing them as a distraction, presents could be seen as sacrament, a physical reminder of a spiritual truth?
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11)!”
God loves to give gifts! He doesn’t give bad gifts, but good gifts! Gifts of joy, peace, love, and eternal life!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).”
Our gift giving at Christmas time can be a symbol of our generous heavenly Father who gives good gifts us. We can use this Christmas tradition in our families to point to the greatest gift of all time, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son....(John 3:16).”
Instead of rejecting presents as a distraction from Christmas, let’s use them as a way to point to its true meaning! Talk to your kids about it, meditate on it, and reflect on your own excitement and enthusiasm as a reflection of God’s own excitement in giving us Jesus!
Our second Christmas sacrament revolves around another tradition, being with those we love. You might look forward to being with your family because you love each other and get along. Maybe that’s not your situation; you might have a broken family, and even though you do get together for Christmas, you wish those relationships could be different, healthier, and more loving. Or, maybe you don’t have family to gather with, and Christmas is a time of sorrow and longing. No matter what position you are in, whether being with family in a healthy way is possible or not, there is one thing we have in common. There is a desire, a longing, to be with our loved ones.
"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel" (which means "God with us") (Matthew 1:23).”
Christmas is about God’s deep desire, his longing, to be with us. Our family celebrations, our desire for healthy relationships, and even our sorrow over lost loved ones, can remind us of God’s heart for us! God loves us and wants to be with us! Thanks to Jesus we can be with Him!
This next week, whenever you give or receive a gift, remember Him. Remember your Heavenly Father who loves to give you good gifts, and who has given the greatest gift of all, Jesus. When you feel that excitement, longing, or sorrow about being with family, remember Him. Remember that Christmas is the celebration of Emmanuel, God with us.
Blessings to you all as you celebrate the coming of God into this world. Praying you have a very merry, sacramental Christmas!