Real Help for Real Living
First, let me wish you a very Merry Christmas. I pray you and the people in your life have a chance to gather together and celebrate this incredibly holy time of year.
How can I paint the Christmas story for you? Let me take you back to the late 1970s. I was in college and the movie “Saturday Night Fever” was the rage. Everywhere you turned, everyone had the white suit that John Travolta wore.
OK, I didn’t have a white suit. I had one that I thought was even better. It was white with red-and-black plaid with a matching plaid vest. Behind that, I wore a yellow shirt with a green crushed-velour bow tie … not the one executives wear today, the really big bow tie.
The pants weren’t plaid (aren’t you glad, but maybe it was worse). The pants were kelly green. Wait, it gets better. I had an afro – my hair was more than four-months long. It completely filled my college graduation picture. Can you believe that with me looking like that, my wife not only dated but also married me?
But let me get back to the story.
Travolta had the lead role in “Saturday Night Fever.” Imagine Travolta walking down the street and encountering his favorite nephew. His nephew had been playing in the dirt. The little kid’s hands and face are covered in wet, sticky mud. The nephew yells, “Uncle John, I love you. Let me give you a hug!” This is “Uncle John’s” favorite nephew. But Uncle John keeps his nephew at a distance. He doesn’t want any dirt on his clean white suit. As “Tony Manero” (good Italian name), Travolta has to look the part of the great disco dancer he was. Never was there any dirt found on that suit.
Some 2,000 years ago, God would enter our world. He would have to leave the purity of heaven and enter our world that contained the thing he despised, sin. Just like Travolta, he could have said, “I don’t want anyone dirtying my clothes. I’ll stay in heaven.”
He didn’t. He chose to enter our world with its sin, its hypocrisy and its violence – a world that would prefer to love the creation instead of the creator. Paul’s letter to the Philippians speaks of Jesus “laying aside” his divinity so he could experience everything that we would experience. In spite of his desire to “keep his disco outfit clean” (please don’t write me a letter), Jesus allowed it to get soiled with the things of this earth.
While it touched his body, it didn’t touch his divinity. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” At Christmas, God’s great love for us could not keep him in heaven. He desired to be in relationship with us. He desired to reconcile us back to his Heavenly Father. To accomplish those goals, he would enter our world so that he could become the sinless sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, which we celebrate on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
You will probably never look at “Saturday Night Fever” the same again. I hope you will never look at Christmas the same again, either.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friends.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.