Chaplain (LTC) Ernest Ibanga
JBLM Pastoral Care Coordinator
Are you enjoying the best Christmas of your life? Most of us celebrate Christmas in the spirit of the circumstances and conditions of the world around us. There are really two Christmases. One takes place around us and the other inside us. The true Christmas is the Christmas of the heart. But so of¬ten, our circumstances so distract us that we miss the real meaning of Christmas.We live on two tracks. The first one is the track of our hearts where we really are, our true feelings, hopes, struggles, and the yearnings of our innermost beings. And the other track is the fast moving track of the Commercialization of Christmas in our culture. The difficulty is bringing the two tracks together so that the real meaning of Christmas affects where we really live. Yet so seldom does it happen. We miss the best Christmas of our lives believing that they may one day happen in the future.
I talked to a man whose wife died this year. He said, “Listen, I am not going to celebrate Christmas. Life is not the same without her. We used to decorate the house together and go to parties together. The time we used to exchange gifts were such precious moments that I just can’t endure it.” Another woman said to me, “I am going in for surgery after the first of the year and I don’t feel like Christmas. It’s impossible for me to deal with the worry of that surgery and celebrate Christmas. I just wish I can wake up and it will all be over.” Someone else said to me, “You know my candidate didn’t win the election. There’s not going to be much of a Christmas at our house.” Yet another woman said to me, “You know my husband is a police officer. The fear of violence and terrorism has really gotten to me. I am concerned that some terrible attack might happen. There will not be much of a Christmas at our house this year.” I want to suggest that the only way to celebrate the real Christmas is to think of why Jesus Christ came and then ask ourselves a direct question, “Has he accomplished in me the reason that he came?” The best way to celebrate the real Christmas is to roll up Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost all into one because when we do that then the fullness of the reason that Christ came has his full impact in our lives, and then we can celebrate that he came.
Listen to his clear and undistorted explanation of his reason for coming to Earth. John 10:10b “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” In just one sentence, Christ gives us the full sweep of the incarnation and helps us to understand that the celebration of Christmas must encompass not only how he was born but also how he lived and what he did. His message, his death on the cross, his resurrection, his power in Glory, and the pouring out of His Spirit upon his people are all celebrated on His birthday. I am convinced that any true celebration of Christmas must at one time sing: “O little town of Bethlehem,” “Away in a manger,” and also “Trust and obey,” and “Blessed Assurance,” and “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” and “I know a risen Savior and He is in the world today, you ask me how I know Him, he lives within my heart,” and “Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me.” Isn’t it amazing! Stop and think with me for a moment. We celebrate the lives of great people in history. We know and talk about what they accomplished in their lives but we know very little about how there were born. But with Jesus Christ, we know all about his birth but remember very little or nothing of what he accomplished. We can glamour in the wonder of the incarnation during the Christmas season, how God came down to earth but by January 1st, we’ve forgotten everything.
Many people are left unchanged by the celebration of his birth, no matter how sentimental we make it. But lives are changed when we realized what he did on earth – the cross for our reconciliation and transformation and his risen presence to fill us with power. Someone wrote, “The Gospels are really the pref¬ace to the ministry of Christ.” Somehow that puts it all in a whole new perspective for me. Everything Christ did all through his life to his resurrection was all in preparation for the ultimate, which was, “that he could fill his own people with his own Spirit.” He came, hum¬bled himself, lived among us, preached the kingdom, went to the cross for our atonement, rose from the dead, glorified by God, returned in the power of the Spirit and at Pentecost, poured out the Spirit so that a whole new breed of humanity could be born. That is why we celebrate Christmas. That is why He came; to give us abundant life. I encourage you this season. Don’t get on the wrong track. Don’t miss the real Christmas. Be intentional about remembering Him and living His words. You won’t regret it.