My husband commented to me one October day when we were driving past our neighbor’s 15-foot skeleton in the yard: “Some people decorate for Halloween more than they decorate for Christmas!” It’s ironic that evil and death is so glorified in October only to be replaced by hollow “Christmas” decorations of Santa and snowflakes. In reality, both are trivialized — evil becomes a joke, which strips away a need for something deeper than congeniality and warm feelings at Christmas.
The debate over Halloween aside, the gospel is a big deal precisely because our sin is a big deal. Two-thirds of our Bible exists to prove that point: Old Testament story after Old Testament story that describe the depths of brokenness we’ve gotten ourselves into after the fall. Then we find pages and pages of intricate laws that can honestly be a bore if we don’t stop to realize that each one is a serious matter because God requires every aspect of human life and worship to precisely fit his standard. There’s no wiggle room, no “good enough.” Then — if you didn’t get stuck in Leviticus — there’s pages and pages of prophecy pronouncing the worst judgments on God’s people who haven’t met the standard. It would be entirely depressing if we didn’t catch the thread of promise woven throughout that God himself would provide the solution, the Rescuer, for this sin-entrenched world.
Of course the Old Testament exists (and is worth reading) for a reason. It’s God’s Word just as much as the New because, in order to fully experience the joy of the gospel, we have to realize that without Christ, we have to realize our greatest issue isn’t that we’re just sick, we’re spiritually dead. Dead people can’t fix themselves. They can’t even desire to! So our rescue has to be so great that God initiates all of it! His Spirit has to come and breathe new life into us so that we can desire him. As Spurgeon would say it, our salvation is “all of grace,” nothing of us.
Christmas is beautiful because it celebrates the sheer depth God was willing to go for this rescue. He didn’t send an angel to save us; he came himself, suffering amongst us and dying in our place so that we could have life when we deserved death. But all that would be useless to us had not the Spirit come and breathed new life into our hearts, replacing our hearts of unfeeling, blind stone with hearts of sensitive, life-giving flesh (Jer. 31), so that we could see and feel and enjoy all that Christ did for us.
This Christmas, don’t settle for shallow, warm feelings, the aura of “holiday cheer.” No, the joy can be much deeper, much longer lasting. Christ has fully fulfilled the standard of God’s holiness we were powerless to meet. That leaves us to cease strivings, cease working, and simply find joy in Him! I promise, this is the only joy that will truly fill our hearts to overflowing this Christmas — and beyond. The joy that God has indeed redeemed the ashes of a broken life and replaced it with the beauty of new life in himself!