My roommate Roger was big on efficiency. He told me he tossed his socks under the bed so they could collect dust-balls around them. That way when he picked them up for washing, he swept the floor at the same time. That’s what he said, but whenever his girl was due to come by he scurried around picking them up ahead of time. Women have a civilizing effect.
Visitors do that to you. Grandmother made you live in the kitchen so her parlor would always be fit for funerals and preachers. Now you sit with guests in the living room and unwind in the family room after they leave.
What’s your plan for when the Lord decides to drop by? Do you want Him in the family room? Before you answer, you ought to know why He’s coming. Amos talked about people with wrong expectations. “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-black, without a ray of brightness?” (5:18, 20).
The truth is that the Lord comes to bring righteousness and justice. He comes to save His people and to punish the wicked. Is that good news or bad?
For Herod it was bad. When you're used to running the world, the fact that the Lord’s coming to do it Himself doesn’t appeal to you. When you’re used to laughing at the Lord, you don’t think it’s funny for Him to have the last laugh. So he killed all the babies, one of whom just might be the Messiah.
For the wise men the news was so good it was worth learning more about. So they traveled from the ends of the earth, not running from the Lord but hurrying to worship Him. Then there were the shepherds. They weren’t going anywhere. They didn’t have any expectations. When the Lord’s glory came on them they were terrified and didn’t know what to think.
So the angel explained So the angel explained Christmas to them. “Don’t be afraid.” He knew that was what they needed to hear first. Then he gave them the facts: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Who’s that at the door? God Almighty, the Judge of the whole earth—that’s who. But He’s come to be your Savior! You didn’t know what to expect, but you knew what you deserved. When He came, it might be the end of you. But now the Maker of heaven and earth has come to be the help of poor sinners. Now the righteous Lord has come to be the Lord, your righteousness.
Let John Calvin teach you about it:
Question: What is the first point?
Answer: To rely upon God.
Q: How can we do that?
A: First by knowing Him as almighty and perfectly good.
Q: Is this enough?
A: Because we are unworthy that He should show His power in helping us, or employ His goodness toward us.
Q: What more then is required?
A: That we be certain that He loves us, and desires to be our Father and Savior.
Q: How do we know that?
A: By His Word, in which He declares His mercy to us in Christ, and assures us of His love toward us.
Q: Then the foundation for true reliance upon God is to know Him in Jesus Christ?
A: That is true. (Geneva Catechism: Q’s 8–14)
That is true. That’s what Christmas is all about. The Lord has kept the biggest promise He ever made, and has come to save you! He’s showing you how to rely on Him by knowing how much He loves you. He's giving you the only foundation there is for true reliance upon Him, knowing Him in Jesus Christ.
So you don’t need to brace yourself against the post-holiday blues, since Jesus is the gift who keeps on giving. Christmas isn’t ever going to be over. Remember Narnia before Asian came, “always Winter and never Christmas’? Now it’s sometimes Winter but always Christmas. All that’s left is for you to serve Him in joy and faith until He comes again. “That in all afflictions and persecution, with head held high, I wait for the Judge from Heaven who has already offered Himself to the judgment of God for me, and has taken away from me all curse” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 52).
So listen to the angel yourself: Don’t be afraid! Practice holding your head high for the judgment day. Be bold when you pray. Confess your sins clearly, trusting in the Lord’s willing forgiveness. Confess the same way to the people whom you have sinned against. Don’t read the Bible as a potential Dear John, but as a love letter from your Savior. As you read, ask Him to change you deeply by His Word. Trust Him to show you yourself as you are, instead of the way you’ve been imagining. Trust Him to change you into being a servant, especially to those who aren’t as gifted or attractive as you. Trust Him to change you through whatever it takes for you to grow in Christ.
Don’t be afraid! Open wide the door of your family room to the Baby of Bethlehem. And sing from the bottom of your heart, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.”
Dr. Davis is Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.