“He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.”
– Augustine of Hippo –
Zakar is Hebrew for remember.
Some things must be remembered.
One set of people holds these things dear by celebrating them all year long, because these things permeate all days, not just one or two.
Others recognize this, but also value a set-apart day–needing a reminder of the wonder, a day to refresh all the year’s living.
One of these days is Christmas.
We’ve always celebrated it at our house. And yet, dear friends choose not to.
It’s okay, really. One of those things God lets us choose—let those who celebrate the day, do it to the Lord.
And those who don’t—they do it for His glory as well.
And truly—Christmas. Christ with us. Emmanuel, always—not just on one holly-decked square on the calendar, but forever.
It’s the same with other days.
It’s impossible to cram into one day the wonder of His rising, of His death-quenching. It’s ridiculous to think it can be stuffed into a hundred thousand Easters. Millions of Sundays would not suffice.
A day of Thanks—as if all the other days were to be full of complaining? Not at all. But something in the soul is refreshed that the idea is important enough to have a day of remembrance. A day when the whirling-away and the head-spinning and the busy commercialization must stop so that thanks can snuggle deep into the soul.
Just as a friend is every bit as special the rest of the year as she is on her birthday. Just as special. But to have a special day to say it? This is good. Maybe your friend knows you love her all the time. Friendship—her life—is just as much to be celebrated any other day. But that one day is for you—not her—in a way. Yes, on that day you thank God for her. But really…who is it that needs reminded of the wonder of having a friend? She may get presents on that day, but it is you who receive the greater gift. You are reminded of just how much you have, on her birthday.
Isn’t it the same for His birthday? The date does not matter. The tinsel does not matter—neither do the molasses-dark cookies shaped like pudgy men or the lights twinkling or the cinnamon drifting from the kitchen or the gifts nestled under an everlastingly-green tree.
Ah—but the tree can remind us, help us Zakar. Some call it pagan. Whoever, ages ago, worshiped a tree or chronicled it as a symbol of paganism—this man did not corrupt God’s trees. The trees on this planet still lift leafy faces to the heavens. They don’t hang down or die away because their purpose has been stolen away. Not at all. Still, tree crowns grow high, pointing skyward to a Creator enthroned beyond our glory-stealing schemes.
And that one spicy pine or fringy spruce or musky cedar with which the halls are decked–its green fades a bit when the life is cut off at the roots. The holder of lights, stretching out limbs to cover everything, guarding the secrets till the Christmas dawns. An everlasting tree dying. Something like an Everlasting God-Man dying, cut off to be the gift. The Holder, Maker, Shaper of light, stretching out His limbs to cover it all, to flood every sin with bloody grace. The great Secret of the ages, foretold in a host of whispered, echoing prophesies, now shouted out to the world. Emmanuel! Emmanuel! He’s here, with us. With us!
The gifts remind us. Those oddly-shaped packages swathed with way too much metallic wrapping paper. The little tucked-in-the-stocking goodies. Every tiny sneaked-in item that a relative crept around the store with, trying in vain to keep secrets on a mass shopping trip where every family member ends up hiding, arms full, in a separate checkout line.
“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.”
– Vance Havner –
Gifts remind us that God stepped down out of splendor to be curled and vulnerable in a womb. Christmas is a refresher course in generosity, a day when prayers seep in deep and stinginess can seep away. A special set-aside time when a hunted-for gift is placed in quivering, open hands and delight begins its ecstatic dance in two pairs of eyes. Close your eyes and remember. Zakar for a while.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…”
– Isaiah 9:6 b –
Okay, so the wise men weren’t really there that first night that the angels proclaimed the royal birth. But a glance at the manger, at the faces bowed in awe, they too can help us Zakar.
“He lived among us…He made a throne out of a manger and a royal court out of some cows. He took a common name—Jesus—and made it holy. He took common people and made them the same. He could have lived over us or away from us. But He didn’t. He lived among us.
He became a friend of the sinner and brother of the poor. He touched their sores and felt their tears and paid for their mistakes. He entered a tomb and came out and pledged that we’d do the same. And to us all…He shared the same message. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me….I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:1,3)
Some pretend that He doesn’t exist….Others hear Him, but don’t believe Him. It’s not easy to believe that God would go so far to take us home….But then a few decide to…venture out of their corners….”
– Max Lucado, from When Christ Comes –
While the contagious laughter rises around you and the coffee mugs clink together in the sink and the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle off the glittering ornaments, remember why He came. To seek and save the lost, so they could come home. Isn’t Christmas a foretaste of a forever-home?
“Some pretend He doesn’t exist.” That He never came. That Christmas is about hullabaloo and December 26th sales, chubby mall Santas and seasonal eggnog.
“Others hear Him, but don’t believe Him. It’s not easy to believe that God would go so far to take us home” (emphasis mine).
Zakar. God did “go so far to take us home.” Remember this, savor it with all your might. He came once. And He will do it again.
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”
– Sigrid Undset –
For this Christmas, and every other, remember all His goodness.
Thank you to Atalie with Atalie Bale Photography for today’s lovely Christmas photo!