Joy to the World, the Lord has come; let Earth receive her King!
The triumphal ecstasy voiced in many of the songs we’ll hear this month is not genuine for many of the hearts in the crowds of Christmas. As the slice of the culture in an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus shrinks, the shrill retort of the skeptics becomes more prominent. Cities are decorated right now to celebrate the birthday of One whose very existence is now contested.
At the center of the maelstrom is the essential human question of identity. Who was He? And… who are we? The formation of identity is no accident of evolution; it defines what it means to be human, and separates us from the rest of creation.
Identity moves through four milestones. It begins with Identity Diffusion: these people haven’t thought deeply about who they are, so they lack confidence plotting their future. Move on to Identity Foreclosure, when one absorbs the condition of the culture around them, without challenging or owning it. That leads to an Identity Moratorium – often, a Crisis – where the answers from the past no longer hold weight for the future, and a new definition is demanded. Identity Achievement is a point of resolution about one’s authenticity, and makes whole-hearted forward progress possible.
Christmas – the celebration of the birth of Jesus – recognizes the sole exception to the fallen state of humankind, born into the fallen state passed from Adam and Eve to each generation. The extraordinary story of his Advent begins before he was conceived. The advance work was done by emissaries – angels – sent to brief both Mary and Joseph.
The disclosure to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33).
And, the reinforcement offered to Joseph: “…do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Billions of people, from Eden to now, all born with the same question: who are they, really? And, based on the resolution of that haunting existential issue, what is the underlying agenda for their life, today and going forward?
Jesus’ identity – Son of the Most High; King, destined to reign forever on David’s throne; Savior for sinners – was clarified before his conception. He lived out his identity while he was here; his essence as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the mystery in the manger…
For thousands of years, God has written the story of history using people whose discovery of their true identity – crafted by their Creator – set them on course to be extraordinary, themself.
The Angel of the Lord, in the Burning Bush, said to Moses: “ ‘I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 3:10-11).
The same Angel, appearing as a man to Gideon: “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’” (Judges 6:12).
Wise Mordecai, cousin and mentor to Esther: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Holidays expose personal realities that get buried all year long; unresolved questions will taint the festivities for too many people. Embrace your true identity in the eyes of God: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).