Christmas Beyond Bars

December 01, 2009

A glowing fireplace with yuletide log, children caroling in the streets, brightly-wrapped packages — these are images of Christmas so many hold dear.

But when the Word became flesh, there was little celebration, no red carpet, not even a welcome mat. If not for the heavenly choir or star in the sky, even the shepherds and wise men would have skipped the occasion.

"For He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him," (John 1:11). We don't often sing about that at Christmas.

The Son of God, considering the plight of His creation, took a long look at the glories of heaven, stepped into His jeweled chariot and swept over the edge of time and space to become one with us, so we could become one with Him. That great leap of faith brought Him here the first time. His unqualified love will bring Him back.

And when He does return, His arrival will beckon an intriguing truth. Those who are called to join Him in His forever kingdom will have a defining characteristic. In His own words: "I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."

In contrast to heaven, this dark desperate world must have seemed to Him like a prison. It still does.

So the message of Christmas must be more than a look back. It's a promise of better things to come for those who choose to take His words to heart; those who receive His blessing with astonished gladness: "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me," (Matthew 25:40).

There's no way to miss it — on the very first Christmas He went to prison to be with us.

May your Christmas season be filled with messages of hope and light from One who plans a second visit — the very first Christmas beyond bars.