Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman's breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother's arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter's despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas!"
Those of us who have been Christians for a long time tend to use some special words in an all-to-familiar fashion at times, because after decades of hearing them in church, we can become numb to the meaning and significance. "Holy" is such a word. At Christmas, when we hear 'O Holy Night' or 'Silent Night, Holy Night', we often just hold our candle and run through the verses, so we can get to the family dinner.
But, the word 'Holy' is special. It deserves more attention. Literally, 'Holy' means "set apart". When we say God is holy, we are literally saying He is set apart. He is not only different that you and I, but He is different than anything ever created or imagined. On a plane and in a lane of His own. Inconceivable to the human mind. We get a glimpse of this in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, where we look into the throne room of God in heaven, surrounded by angels who are constantly crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!"
A similar scene is described in Revelation 4, where scripture says the angels "day and night, do not cease to say, 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is, and who is to come." Think about that. Since the beginning of time, there has never been a moment where God is not hearing the words 'Holy, Holy, Holy'. Literally, these angels are acknowledging that there is something very very different about the Lord. He cannot be adequately described or put in a 'box', so they just keep saying "Set apart, Set apart, Set apart." Not like us. Beyond our understanding. Holy.
Christmas is a prime moment for us to honor the significance of this term, which is why it is included in so many songs of the season, as well as other hymns throughout the rest of the year (i.e. Holy, Holy, Holy). The events of the nativity are holy indeed. Never before, and never since has anything like this unfolded. God Himself became a helpless infant. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. When this happened, the angels Isaiah saw in heaven came down to earth to continue the celebration of God's holiness - And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' - Luke 2:13-14.
The next two weeks are full of fun stuff. Lights, trees, presents, gatherings, time off of school and work. I tell students all the time that we take one day off for George Washington (President's Day), and one day off for Martin Luther King, Jr., and one day off for the birthday of our nation on July 4. But, for Jesus, we take two weeks off! It is that special, that different, that holy. Even the secular schools and organizations will shut down for multiple days at Christmas, and although they would never admit it, if it were not due to the significance of this particular occasion, they would just do the one day holiday and move on as well. Christmas is holy. It is set apart. It is different.
As we all make our way to various locations next week to celebrate the holiday, I hope, in the midst of all the Santas, trees, lights, tinsel, shopping, movies, etc., that we can keep ample focus on the holiness of our Savior, and this amazing event we observe in December on His behalf. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas celebration this year. Jesus is worthy of our praise!
Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer