Christmas is a time of celebration, just as all birthdays are. Given how excited we all get, one might think we are celebrating our own birthday. From the twinkling lights and decorations everywhere, Christmas is a beautiful time of year. But it’s not just because of the decorations, it’s the attitudes people have. I see people being kinder, investing themselves in ways big and small to help others out. It’s not about the actual presents, but about being present, giving our time, energy and hearts to those near and far.
For those of us that celebrate the Christ in Christmas, we know that we are not just celebrating his birth, but the birth his life makes possible in us as well. We know that Jesus was born a long time ago and has since died, just as we will all one day die. Unlike us, He was born with the purpose of death, so that we may be born with the purpose of living. He chose death so that we may choose life.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not living just because we are alive, and choosing life is actually quite difficult. It is hard because it requires risk, and risk requires courage because those risks will involve facing ridicule and rejection. It requires relinquishing the counterfeits we have accepted in place of life — success, possessions, approval — and recognizing that the baby we celebrate, Jesus, who entered this world helpless and dependent, is the source of the power we need to come alive. We celebrate Immanuel because it means that God is not just for us, but with us. We celebrate the birth of Jesus because the beginning of his life makes the beginning of our life possible. A life with God rather than without, a life that is empowered through the Holy Spirit rather than powerlessly seeking to control the uncontrollable. Jesus lived life to the fullest before He died and He makes it possible for us to do the same. Jesus glorified God when He humbled himself, became a baby and chose death on a cross to save us, and he also glorified God by how he chose to live between the manger and the cross.
Jesus chose risk over safety, rejection over acceptance, pain over pleasure, and God over Himself. Who can say that for themselves? I cannot — even though I wish I could. I want to be fully alive but I continually choose the path that keeps me from that, and I am becoming painfully aware that my lack of choosing life is keeping others from becoming fully alive also.
The tragedy of a life that is never fully lived is not solely the loss of that one life. The tragedy is the endless number of lives that would have been forever changed if we had chosen to live differently.
Erwin McManus, The Last Arrow: Save Nothing For The Next Life
I went to the funeral this week of my daughter’s classmate. As a mother, whose daughter is the same age, I am reminded of how quickly life can end. My heart is torn apart for his family and friends, for the life he had yet to live. It is incomprehensible to imagine how to face the heartache of this death in the midst of a season revolving around celebrating life — an event synonymous with joy and peace.
My daughter pointed out to me that he left this earth on the 7th, the year 2017, at around 7:00PM (Not to mention, his football jersey was even number 7). I can’t help but think of God resting on the seventh day of creation, and the rest that He is calling all of us to. Resting in His love, so that we can go forward and love others better. Resting in His comfort, so that we can move out into the world and comfort those in need. Resting in His protection so that we can enter bravely into the battles we will face in this world. Resting in His grace, so that we can know we are not defined by our past, we are set free to live in our present. There will come a time when we will each enter into His rest eternally, but until that day comes, we are given moments of rest in order to have the strength to live fully today, leaving nothing on the table, no regrets. We will know that we did all we came to do, we lived a bigger story than ourselves, and we passed the baton off to those left behind to continue the race in our place.
I never got to meet Micah Gilbert, but he touched my life in ways that are indescribable. I have gotten to watch his YouTube channel (feel free to watch and subscribe, I know it would mean so much to his mom) and see him sing, dance and share his life. He put himself out there, risking rejection and ridicule, which can feel overwhelming during a time of life riddled with insecurities and peers that can be cruel and discouraging. I got to witness him being authentic, being who God created him to be. Reminding all of us that we have the same opportunity– we can either engage life or just exist. We can either go to battle and find our voice, or remain quiet and lifeless. We can either be kind and merciful, or defensive and judgmental. Because it doesn’t get any easier as an adult, there will always be fear about putting yourself out there and there will always be people who try to stop you — it is only because they are afraid themselves.
Jesus came to set us free, to bring us to life from the imprisonment of death. Learning to let go of who other people say we are, and cling to who God made us to be. Releasing what other people think of us, and holding onto who God is for us.
May you be inspired by Micah and all the other people you encounter that are glorifying God by being fully alive — may you be found in their ranks. May we be part of the revolution to not just profess that we have been born again, but to actually live a life that the world would notice when our light goes dim.
I may never have met Micah, but I witnessed the outpouring of people who came to pay their respects at his funeral. He impacted a lot of people in his life, I have no doubt that he will continue to impact people. We cannot see this side of Heaven, the ripple effect that our lives have. We are reminded that the number of our days is out of our control, but it is in our control how we choose to live out the days we are given. May we live the life that Jesus made possible, that is what Christmas is all about. That is the greatest gift we have been given, and the best gift we have to share.