Christmas Is Around the Corner

  • Jeff Crotts
Nativity scene with little minifigures

Christmas evokes our spirits toward a real and genuine desire for intimacy with family and friends.  Believers in Christ are especially drawn toward deeper intimacy with Christ.  The familiar scene of the newborn baby laying in a manger surrounded by young parents, shepherds, and stable animals who are hovered as it were over God on earth, clothed in vulnerable flesh.  Believers cherish what the Gospels have etched inside our hearts from the pages of holy Scripture because this account represents the real intimacy with God that we  long for.

Even with our very liberalized culture where God is increasingly being erased in not so subtle ways, Christ will nevertheless still ubiquitously will be heard in the music of our stores and displayed on most of the covers of popular magazines in our grocery aisles.  The reason hymns about Jesus’ birth will be sung (as strange as this seems within postmodernity) in secular stores this is because everyone who has ever lived (and presently alive) is an image-bearer and as such carries within them the witness of God in their hearts.  Though people suppress, suffocate, ignore, and drown God’s voice it is there.  The public as reflex chooses sin not God as sin’s promise for instant gratification vies for attention clouding clear judgement on what really matters.  Love for sin acts like radio static interference, breaking down any connection of intimacy with God, though they still desperately long for the void in their hearts to be filled.  Just like faint background music being played while people shop at Target, Wal-Mart, or the Mall, deep down, there is a faint recognition way down in the recesses of the conscience that this newborn, from 2,000 years ago, is the solution to everything that is going wrong today. 

Christians are responsible to show others how they can draw near to Jesus and find hope.  Perhaps one of the unexpected barriers you will need to remove from someone searching for Christ is their religion.  When people are searching for hope in God, they will reflexively try to find it in church, as if the institution itself can confer it.  “If I will only show up, I will find God” they say.  A longtime Catholic newspaper called, The Catholic Standard, published an article titled, Making time for Confession before Christmas, that in subtle fashion promotes a kind of religious intimacy which on the face sounds healthy.  Read this carefully.   

In these few days before Christmas, there are plenty of last-minute preparations to be attended to: buying gifts, decorating the house, planning family gatherings. But, during Advent – which continues until Christmas Eve – the Church calls us to examine our lives, and amend and correct those faults that separate us from God.

One of the best and most effective ways we can draw closer to God is by confessing our sins.

It is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that the Church provides us with the means to make our relationship right again with God. The sacrament is one of healing because through it we find absolution and mercy and forgiveness.

So important is this mission of forgiving sins in God’s name, that after His resurrection during His first meeting with the Apostles, Jesus said “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20)

As we frantically wrack our brains thinking of the perfect Christmas gifts to buy our loved ones, there is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves this year: a closer relationship with God and His Church.

Try to make time in these next few hectic days to go to Confession. It is through this sacrament that we tell God we wish to atone for our sinful ways, to draw closer to Him, and to gratefully receive the gift of His son born in a manger.

What is wrong with this prescription for intimacy with God?  Simply put, there is an unnecessary step added when approaching God with your sins.  This unnecessary step is corrosive to finding God by rendering someone’s confession of sin useless.  What is sad is that embedded within these brief paragraphs are wonderful truths and realities like the line: One of the best and most effective ways we can draw closer to God is by confessing our sins. 

Where this goes wrong is the additional steps created by the Catholic Church; what they call sacraments.  These are manmade pronouncements they make necessary for someone to be forgiven and for someone to stay forgiven.  The Bible’s clear teaching says we have a clear path to God apart from any sort of religious step.  Church ceremonies and priests are never meant to be our means to God.  The church is never meant to be sort of gatekeeper for our forgiveness.  No.  The point of Christ coming as a baby was to create the very raw, real, and earthy access to God and forgiveness that can only be found through Christ and by no other means.  So, the sentiment of drawing near to God and confessing our sins to God is well placed within December’s Christmas, however, finding forgiveness on any month only comes by faith alone and through Christ alone. 

God’s Word tells us that our means to God is Christ who is God.  He is our High priest who as God, brings us near to God.   

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)