The Christmas Yearbook

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16 NIV).

When I was a junior in high school, we had a spirit week that led up to homecoming. During this week, every day was a fun dress up day. On mismatch day, I went all out. I wore the tackiest, most uncoordinated outfit that I could imagine. It actually felt quite liberating not to fuss over whether my ensemble was fashionable, put-together or even well-received. I was unrestrained by high school trend setting rules, and I walked through the halls without worrying whether everything was tucked in and set properly.

The coolest part of my day happened in fifth period. One of the girls from yearbook came to our classroom looking to take photos of a good mismatch outfit. She took one look at me, and asked if I would come out in the hallway for a photo op. Of course, I jumped out of my seat lickety-split and headed to the door. Since it was mismatch day, I gave her my craziest pose – hands up in the air, head tilted to the side and mouth formed into a wide, goofy smile. I walked back to my seat knowing that my photo would be an awesome tribute to spirit week and mismatch day.

The following semester when the year book came out, I couldn’t wait to see if my photo made it into print. I instantly flipped through the pages of the large book, looking for my much anticipated mismatch day tribute. When I finally found it, I was shocked!  My photo was everything I wanted. It was wild, fun and uncoordinated. However, the only problem was that there was absolutely no mention of mismatch day. In fact, the caption listed my name and that I was showing off my particular, crazy style sense. WHAT???

The photo now took on an entirely new meaning that had little to do with the realities of mismatch day and the legitimacy of my weird wardrobe. The photo was taken completely out of context and reconstructed within an alternate motive (aka my individual and crazy sense of style). I’m sure the photo was selected with mismatch day long forgotten, and the yearbook students were simply trying to capture a unique story; but I still found the departure from the initial intent to be misleading.

If Christmas were a yearbook, it would be filled with many such mismatch stories. Our culture today produces a plethora of unique variations of the Christmas holiday, but sadly most of them have been taken completely out of context and reconstructed within an alternate motive. The true meaning of Christmas is quickly being forgotten, and individuals flip through the pages of today’s Christmas Yearbook intrigued, entertained and confused by all the variations of single reality.

Laying aside the countless Santas and reindeer; winter songs and cups of cocoa; wrapped presents and twinkling lights; holiday cards and donation boxes; Christmas is about a perfect God becoming flesh to save a creation separated by sin. God created a flawless world and a flawless people, but He gave us free-will to choose His perfection (Tree of Life) or our own corruption (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). We chose to leave God’s righteousness, so sin penetrated our world, corrupting the earth and the hearts of people. Our sin formed a chasm between fallen humanity and their perfect Creator.

God knew we would fall short of His holiness, but instead of disregarding us altogether, He created a redemption plan: He would set aside His glory, enter our corrupted world and exchange His righteousness for our sins. The Creator of the Universe chose the name Jesus and took our mistakes, ugliness and guilt because He loves us that much. He became a helpless baby in a manger, so we could have a personal relationship with Him.

Our time on this earth is short; and every Christmas season that goes by, I am reminded that I have life because Jesus chose death. I have eternity in heaven with a perfect God, because Jesus’ pierced hands have closed the gap that separates me from Him. In the middle of my Christmas Yearbook—on the only page that gives me hope, joy and Truth—I see my God, salvation wrapped in flesh, and I’m in awe of the greatest gift the world has ever seen: Jesus, called Immanuel, God with us.

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1.23 NIV).