Dec 222013 1 Response

An Invitation to the Simplicity of Christmas

The Christmas story is full of complexity—a Triune God, a virgin birth, the Incarnation of a Holy God in the form of human flesh. They are complex thoughts which theologians spend their entire lives trying to understand.

Yet the Christmas story is full of simplicity:

A simple girl in a simple time from a simple town who made a simple pledge to a simple man to live a simple life together forever.

A simple birth of a seemingly simple boy in a simple place that is so simple most of the people living in that day never realized it happened.

If someone is trying to make a splash, the plan of God was far too simple. Attention demands complexity. The world’s attention is best drawn by a show. A baby born in Bethlehem to parents from Nazareth is far too simple to change the world.

Yet that is what Jesus did and the simplicity of his coming is an integral part of the story.

Why would he come in such a simple way? If he could appear however, whenever, wherever, and to whomever he wanted, why choose this simple of a place, people, and coming?

The simplicity of the first Christmas stands in stark contrast with today’s world and modern Christmas celebrations.

We are complex beings living a complex world celebrating the Christmas holiday with tremendous complexity.

The world is complex because of a multitude of people with differing backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. We have a variety of tasks to carry out with a multitude of expectations at an ever-accelerating rate of speed.

We are complex people. We are torn between desires, bombarded by internal voices, and attempting to be who we should be while also being who we want to be. Our complexity may best be illustrated by the fact that even actions done with the best of intentions can have horrific consequences. Like Paul, we do what we don’t want to do and fail to do what we want to do.

For many, the Christmas celebration is a living illustration of our complexity. While some have a simple celebration, most are running to party after party, meal after meal, obligation after obligation. The sign of the complexity is the general sense of relief which comes on Dec. 26 when the expectations of the season come to an end.

Christmas is the bold announcement that Jesus has invaded this complex world with an amazing simplicity.

Never did he seem torn, uncertain, or divided. He didn’t seem to struggle with a work/home balance. He never had to question what was the right action. He was the same before children and kings. He lived by the same values at the Temple or with tax collectors.

He changed the world while living a life of simplicity.

He invites us to do the same.

The simplicity of Jesus is born out of holiness. Being holy causes one to be whole. While sin divides, holiness results in purity. There are no divides in one who is holy. Holiness results in wholeness which leads to simplicity.

Complexity is often born of sin. The Garden wasn’t complex until the serpent began to lure humanity with thoughts that God was holding out on them. The complexity of being an Israelite heightened with every disobedient act. David’s life became much more complex after coveting and stealing Uriah’s wife.

Sin complicates things.

Jesus saw no competition between speaking truth and loving people. He could easily be grace-filled while hating sin. He saw no need to be one thing before a king and something else before a child. He was the same in the Temple as he was on the street corner.

Holiness (wholeness) led to simplicity.

Yet everything Jesus did with ease, we struggle to do. We are different people in different places. We treat people in radically different ways depending on who they are. We do experience a deep tension between love and justice, grace and truth.

The tension, the complexity, is born of internal division. We are not holy so we are not whole. Internal complexity causes us to see external complexity. All of which is exhausting.

It’s to a weary people living in a complex world in which Jesus offers a life of simplicity. It’s a simplicity based on truth.

Knowing our poverty of spirit, there is no need to put on an act of exceptionalism.

Aware of our standing before God, there is no need to put on an air of pseudo-holiness.

Believing in the gospel story, we are free to love, forgive, and extend mercy to others.

Understanding the value of the human soul, we can treat all people with respect.

Having received our identity from Christ, we can show respect to others no matter what they show to us.

Jesus invites us into a simple way of life. He does so through the Christmas story.

It’s ironic—the truth of the first Christmas was bathed in simple truth while so much of our Christmas celebration is a complex cover of falsehood. We run from event to event with fake pleasantries, denying tensions and heartaches often in hopes of just getting through the Christmas season, never truly experiencing the presence of God during this time.

All the while, God is inviting us to a different experience.

He invites us:

past the appearances of false success and extravagant gift giving;

out of the falsehood of living beyond our means via debt;

out of the fake happiness because this season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year;

and he invites us into the truth of the Gospel.

He offers us the simplicity of:

a Savior born in Bethlehem

a gospel which even a child can understand

love expressed without the pressure of materialism

a messy spiritual family called the church

giving more than receiving

Truth—deep, meaningful, soul changing truth

Don’t allow the complexity of the season to drown out the simplicity of God’s message. Hear God’s call to a different way of life. Embrace the simplicity of loving and being loved.

One Response to An Invitation to the Simplicity of Christmas
  1. […] Pastors walk fast because they are in a hurry but they also walk fast to protect themselves. Hearts,... kevinathompson.com/walk-slowly-christmas

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