Some years ago I first heard a recording made at a wonderful Christmas Festival Concert led by the musician Rob Mathes. A sincere and devoted disciple of Jesus, he brought his amazing musical artistry to the production, which included a number of his own songs. One of them that has remained with me is titled “When the Baby Grew Up.” It reminds the listener that the whole point of Christmas is not a baby lying in a manger, but the birth of a Savior King. In the chorus to that song Rob sings: “But when the baby grew up the boy became a man…and led my soul to the promised land.” It is a reminder needed by all of us.
The Book of Common Prayer, when first published in 1549, included as the Collect for Christmas Day the prayer that all those who were hearing “being regenerate, and made [God’s] children by adoption and grace” would “daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit….” It was a manifest indication that the English Reformation was taking its stand on the clear call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He came that all who believed might have new life in him, and grow into the fulness of God’s purpose for each of his children. It was a prayer for people to grow up into manhood and womanhood in Christ Jesus.
Modern Christmas celebrations have taken a further and further turn from the hopes of the English Reformers. Slowly but surely the festival has ceased to be one dominated by the church and her family of believers (though the very name still given to the feast signifies Christian worship), and it does little good to complain about this in the West. The culture has largely abandoned the true meaning of the day, but the faithful church has not. We do come still in awe and wonder to Bethlehem. But we do not stop there. The boy became a man. Our joy is not temporary, it is leading us to eternity.
Nevertheless we must face hard truths. All around us are those who decorate their trees and houses, share in gift giving, and even enter into a temporary focus on friends and family, only to resume their lives without God on the day after Christmas. They have not been “regenerated” (born again) of the Spirit of God. They have not become “new creatures” in Christ Jesus, even if they came to our Christmas services. They are focused on the child in the crib for a moment, but they do not understand the story.
No one but the church can tell the true story, and that means the ordinary believer must do it. It will never again be central to this land or its people unless it becomes the pattern of ordinary believers to share it, as led by the Lord, on the other 364 days of the year. Still, if the life is not lived, with convicting grace, the words will fall to the ground. Our churches must become known, again, for a pattern of life so attractive and compelling to unbelievers, that many of them begin the journey home to God who made them.
This Christmas, can we all begin again to pray for this grace to be given to us? Can we begin to pray that the behavior of the whole body will be lifted to a higher place?
Next Week: Can A Church Be Reborn?