Last December, my family and I experienced life in a different hemisphere on December 25. Dear family friends had invited us to spend the holidays with them in Australia.
When we arrived a few days before Christmas, it felt strange to shop dressed in shorts and flip-flops. I noticed how easy it was to get around in department stores without lugging a winter coat.
Aussie believers usually attend church on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, even if the holidays don’t fall on Sunday. So when the days arrived, we gathered to sang praises, hailing the incarnate deity.
On Christmas instead of chestnuts roasting, we smelled suntan lotion. Instead of sweaters, we wore “bathers” with cover-ups to the table. Mangos replaced cranberries. And we yanked on “crackers”—noisemakers—before saying grace and digging into the shrimp on the “barbie.” Afterward, we headed down to the beach with our mates to watch the kids paddle about in new rafts.
Everything was different. And celebrating in a different hemisphere helped me contemplate Christmas from a different point of view—heaven’s. Did the Father celebrate the Son’s transfer from heaven to a womb? How did it feel for the second person of the Godhead to inhabit flesh? How could the king who is lord of Versailles and The Lodge and Buckingham Palace and the Grand Kremlin combined—the one for whom the very earth is but a footstool—become a slave?
Two thousand years ago, Paul had a similar contemplation: “[Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6–7).
As much as I enjoy a white Christmas, I loved the shock of the blue-sky kind. By laying aside all my usual traditions for one season, I could see more clearly the essential of Christmas: that Christ was “pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel”—God. With us.
Listen as my colleague, Dr. Glenn Kreider, and I talk about what a difference the incarnation makes….