Christmas Time

xwing-graphic_cc_400_mirrorIf you’re reading this on Friday, December 18, then you’re reading it on the same day that I’m scheduled to see the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.

The new film is episode seven in the Star Wars saga. You’d think that would mean that the first six episodes had come out in this order: Episode one, then two, then three, then four, then five, and then six, because that’s how things work. But, as you probably know, that’s not the case. First we had the original trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), which you would figure would be episodes one, two, and three.

But no. The next three movies in the series were prequels to the first three. So the prequels were dubbed episodes one (The Phantom Menace), two (Attack of the Clones), and three (Revenge of the Sith). The original three thus became episodes four, five, and six. As I understand it, episode seven will pick up some thirty years after episode six.

So to sum up: the first three films showed us (from the point of view of the narrative) what is, the next three what was, and the new one (plus the two that will follow it) what will be.

It sounds like the way Christmas time works.

When I was a child, I was very confused by the tense of the verb “to be” used in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We’d sing, “With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!” I wondered why we didn’t sing “Christ was born in Bethlehem.” Now that I’ve put away childish things (and learned how to read), I realize that the song is sung as if we are there, listening to the angels sing. So in the context of the song, the birth of Christ is a present happening.

But then there’s that other Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” which includes the words, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.” A logical mind asks, “What does that mean? Jesus has already been born. What do you mean, ‘Be born in us today’?”

That’s the way it is with Christmas time. It starts for us with Christ being born in us today. Once he comes to us and we start getting to know him, then we can look back to his birth two millennia ago to better understand who he is and what it means for him to live in us. Once we experience Jesus in our here and now, we’re ready to watch the prequels.

And after the prequels, we’re ready to look forward to the sequels. Who knows how many installments there will be? But we can look forward to all that God will do in Christ from now on until Jesus returns in that great future event when God will make everything as it supposed to be.

You see, that’s the way Christmastime works. Christ is come—he is with us right here and right now. Christ has come—he was born in Bethlehem all those years ago. Christ will come—he will keep coming to us until he comes in a final way one of these days.

In a way, then, it’s always Christmas time.

Maybe we can talk about Easter time next spring. After all, Christ the Lord is risen today. . . .

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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