rebelling against low expectations

Christmas Isn’t the Beginning–or the End

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Editor’s note: Throughout the years, TheReb has published thousands of articles, each challenging and encouraging Rebelutionaries to do hard things and seek God. But among these posts, some have especially resonated with you, our readers. So over the next few weeks and months, we’re bringing back these classics, reposting our most popular and well-read articles. May they encourage and remind you of God’s unchanging truth!

Do you know where the Christmas story begins?

Because often, we start in the wrong place.

Our advent calendars will start out with “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1)

But that’s not really the beginning.

Some retellings may even start earlier in Luke 1, opening with an aged Zechariah, and the birth of John the Baptist. But that’s not far enough either.

We don’t need to flip back a chapter to find the true opening of the Christmas story. We need to go back an entire Testament. This story doesn’t start with an espoused Mary, it doesn’t start with a barren Elizabeth. It doesn’t even start in the New Testament. No, the Christmas story starts with, “In the Beginning.”

In fact, we can’t even truly call this the Christmas story, for that is far too small a scope. It would be like calling the Lord of the Rings “The Battle of Hornburg” story. This isn’t the Christmas story. This is the Reality Story. The Story of Everything. The Great Story.

Because if we just begin in Luke, we miss the whole reason for the Story.

So let’s flip back the pages, and begin this Story properly.

The True Beginning

“In the Beginning…”

There was God. And God was three-in-one, perfect and holy, complete and beautiful. Then one day, He spoke. And His Words painted existence itself. Light and waves and hills and hibiscuses and seahorses and zebras–and us. And it was good. It was beautiful. It was perfect, like a jewel.

But we shattered it. We threw it to the ground, demanding our own way, our own wants. We took the glory of the incorruptible God, and traded it for corruptible things. And so we were separated. We were shattered. All the world went awry, and it was our wrong which did it.

Cut off from Him who is Life, hope was extinguished, our purpose destroyed, our very being twisted into raw brokenness and loss and fear and anger and rebellion and–shatteredness.

But.

A Rescuer was promised. A Rescuer would come. All the earth waited for Him, eagerly expectant. A coming King, who would rule His people rightly. A coming Conqueror, who would destroy our entangling bonds. A coming Healer, who would lean down, gather our broken shatteredness, and, somehow, put us–put the entirety of reality–back together again.

And so they waited, they looked, they sat impatiently, ever wondering, ever asking. When is he coming? What will he be like? Can he come now? How about now? How much longer? And not just mankind, the whole of Creation did the same, groaning and longing for the great renewal, the reconciling.

The Light Revealed

The years passed. God picked out a man of Ur, a family, and the image of the Rescuer became clearer. He made them into a nation, and gave them a king. The picture became a bit more focused. He sent prophets, telling of newness of heart, of cleansing of soul, of becoming the sons of God–and yet they waited.

And they grew tired. Surely He must have come by now; could we have perhaps missed it? Or perhaps He isn’t coming at all. Despair began to sink in.

But then, and only then, did the days come to pass that Caesar Augustus declared that all the world should be taxed.

Then, and only then, there was no room to be found, scratchy hay and a rough manger, and a sky exploding with the thunderous praise of overjoyed angels.

You see, this baby isn’t just the one promised to Mary by Gabriel. This baby is the one who created all things that are and have their being–including Gabriel. This baby isn’t just the one promised to Mary by Gabriel. This Baby is the one promised to Eve–the one who will crush the head of sin and death forever. This baby isn’t just the one promised to Mary by Gabriel. This Baby is the one who did the promising throughout all of History, knowing precisely what He would do, how humbly He would be born–and how wretchedly He would die. This baby isn't just the one promised to Mary by Gabriel. This Baby is the one promised to Eve--the one who will crush the head of sin and death forever. Click To Tweet

For not only is Christmas not the true beginning of our story. It’s not the ending either. Don’t close the book after the adoring wise men bearing gifts. Because that baby becomes a bloody Savior bearing a cross.

Yet even then, the story isn’t finished. Because that baby comes again, crowned as the victorious Lamb, making all things new, bearing His reward with Him.

Christmas Isn’t The Whole Story

When we begin with just Christmas, when we end with just Christmas, we lose so much. Yes, the angels are singing, but they’re singing because He’s the promised child from the first creation. They’re singing because He’s the triumphant King bringing in the new one.

The Timeless One entering time, He who created matter stepping into the space of a small stable, “I AM”, who is there in the very beginning and the very end–and He’s here. He’s among us. Emmanuel, God is with us. How unthinkable, how wonderful, is this?

So as you go through your advent calendars, and read through the Christmas Story, remember the greater one as well. Christmas is beautiful, not only because of the manger built from a tree, but also because it’s intrinsically tied to the tree in the garden, the tree on Calvary, and the tree which sits beside the river of life. So delight in it. Delight in the blinded-by-heavenly-beings shepherds coming trembling in, in the gentle light of a beacon star, in the lullaby of a girl rocking the Savior of the world.Christmas is beautiful, not only because of the manger built from a tree, but also because it’s intrinsically tied to the tree in the garden, the tree on Calvary, and the tree which sits beside the river of life. Click To Tweet

Christmas is a beautiful part of this Story. But don’t stay there. Because it’s not the beginning. And it’s not the end.

He is.

 

 

Originally Published Dec. 15, 2017


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About the author

Isabelle Ingalls

is an author, adventurer, and professional editor at 23, seeking to see the reminder and reflection of Christ’s glorious Gospel in all of life. A homeschool graduate, when she's not writing you can find her studying for her Biblical Studies and English degrees, working with children, singing and dancing around the house, or discussing theology with friends over hot chocolate. You can find more of her writing on singleness, adoption, Narnia, thunderstorms, stories, and Christian living at Seeing Everything Else. Interested in improving your writing? Reach out to her at Isabelle Ingalls, Editor.

13 comments

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  • “Christmas is beautiful, not only because of the manger built from a
    tree, but also because it’s intrinsically tied to the tree in the
    garden, the tree on Calvary, and the tree which sits beside the river of
    life.”

    This is such a beautiful article, Isabelle! Thank you for the reminder!

  • Isabelle, what an excellent article! I love how you described creation, the fall, and the arcing dance of history. In every line, it is His Story. Well done! You are a talented writer–keep using your gift for Him!

  • Very interesting read. A couple of thoughts to research.
    Jesus was not born on or near December 25th. That being said, the date December 25th is directly related in many cultures as the celebration of the winter soltice and worship of the sun god. Christmas has a long history of pagan origins and can be dated all the way back to Egypt(long before the birth of Christ!) where worshipping the sun was a huge thing.
    Just a little Christmas history for you.
    I would highly encourage you to research this for yourself!

    • Hey Josh, thanks for reading and for your thoughts!
      I’d like to note that nowhere in the article did I claim that Jesus was born on the 25th, I fact, I think it would be highly improbable for Caesar Augustus to call for a census in winter time, when most everyone stayed put in their homes like sensible people. 🙂 So I’d certainly agree with you that Jesus was likely not born around late December.
      However, I see that as no reason not to celebrate His birth then. While we don’t know when He was born, we already have a fairly certain date and holiday at Easter, and so having another celebration of Him at the opposite side of the year seems to be a sensible thing. Yes, we should delight and be in awe of the Incarnation year round, but just like with Easter, it is always good to take a moment, take some quiet, and reflect all attention on Him.
      Also, I’m going to be slightly picky with words because I’m a writer and they are very important to me: there’s no long history of “Christmas” with pagan origins. For the simple fact that neither Christ nor mass exists in pagan origins. 😀
      However, even if the 25th is tied to some pagan celebration, I’m not sure that’s reason enough to stop celebrating. (In all honestly, I’m sure we’d be hard-pressed to find a date that wasn’t tied to a pagan celebration in one way or another, because there a lot of cultures and a lot of different religions, and the olden time people liked to party. A lot.) By allowing such general implications to taint our viewing and cause us to totally avoid this holiday, I feel we’re allowing wrong to overpower good. Letting our thoughts and implications nullify the awe, the wonder and beauty that is held in the incarnation. And I don’t think we should let it. I’m sure the English language has some very dark and pagan roots, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it to delight in and ascribe glory to Jesus. He said He’s come to reconcile all things to Himself, to submit all things unto Himself, to rule over all, to make all things new. And perhaps that includes our holidays as well.
      Thank you for your thoughts, and regardless of when and how you celebrate Christmas, may you have a very merry one being in awe of this Emmanuel, God with us.

By Isabelle Ingalls
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →