Being an American living in Nairobi, Kenya it could be easy to entirely forget about Christmas. There’s no Thanksgiving and no Black Friday or Cyber Monday to mark the “one month until Christmas” box on the calendar. There’s no snow and no amazing light shows on houses to drive miles to see. I have yet to hear of a Christmas office party or any ugly sweater contests. If I looked hard enough, and was willing to pay for it, I could probably find some eggnog or apple cider (a Millar family tradition). There are no trees to be cut (not legally anyway) and the only fake tree we found was $400.
If I was looking for Christmas in these things then Christmas would never come to Nairobi.
Being out of the highly commercialized Christmas culture in the USA gets one to really remember what Christmas is and why we celebrate Christmas. The outer facade of Christmas is stripped away and you’re left facing the deeper truths of the Christmas season.
When I think about all the Christmas I’ve celebrated for the most part they blend together. That said, I clearly remember the Christmas of 2006. Two months prior to that I had been arrested for drunk driving. My blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit at .24 and that was on “slow night of drinking”. That led to me being kicked off my college baseball team. I had also been recently kicked out of my college dorm for too many drinking violations. And the girl I was dating broke up with me.
I was lost, depressed, and alone. Sure, I was home with family for Christmas but not a single one of them were in a much better season of life then I was. We were all hurting in different ways but trying to pretend like nothing was the matter. I remember it so clearly because it was the most difficult Christmas of my life. Yet, despite that, it is the best reminder I have of why we celebrate Christmas.
The birth of Jesus is the third most important event in all of history – following only his death (#2) and then resurrection (#1).
Jesus birth proves to us that God is not a distant God. It enlightens us to the fact that He doesn’t look down from heaven upon us with pity and arrogance. He’s not sitting in his throne waiting to punish us for messing up or not being “good enough” people. He doesn’t despise us or revile us or harbor bitterness against us for our failures and shortcomings. Jesus birth shows us that God is not actually angry with us at all but that He loves us dearly.
John 3:16 & 17 – “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son so that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
Romans 5:8 – “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
During that Christmas in 2006 I felt worthless, alone, unloved, and unlovable. I was hurting and lost and scared. Nothing was going my way and it felt like nothing ever would again.
But I realized that Christmas that God didn’t want to condemn me for my actions. Instead, He had already shown how He felt about me. He had shown His love for me in the gift of His Son, Jesus. Despite my alcoholic tendencies. Despite my immorality. Despite my lack of genuine care for anyone other than myself. I was somehow still loved by God. And not just “kind of loved”. Not just “put up with because He’s God and He has to”. But truly and utterly loved… without end. That literally changed my life forever.
This is why I now serve as a missionary in Africa helping to start new churches so that more and more people can know of Jesus amazing love. And this is why I celebrate Christmas. Because I am reminded that I am loved just the way I am. I don’t need to put on my best clothes and pretend to be something I’m not just to be loved. I am already loved.
I don’t know what you’re going through this Christmas. I don’t know how you feel about yourself or the situation that you find yourself in. But I want you to know that you are greatly loved by God. No matter what you’ve done or haven’t done – you are loved.
If you take nothing away from the obligatory Christmas church service this weekend just remember that Jesus was sent to live on Earth because God loves you. Simply ponder that truth for a minute this Christmas season and see if it doesn’t do something inside of you. You. Are. Loved. Period.