"Come in, and Know me Better, Man!"

As many of you may have noticed, that title is a famous line from a Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. It’s a warm invitation from the Ghost of Christmas Present to Scrooge to come closer and join him in celebration.

Modern Americans, however, are not always great at knowing people. In a busy world and a society that values individualism over a community, hospitality and intimacy are lost arts. Consider our favorite greeting question of “how are you doing?”. Rarely do we feel the need to hear a real answer, nor do we feel a need to give a real answer. Warm invitations to “know me better” are replaced with polite small talk that avoids awkward interactions. Knowing people and making ourselves known, after all, can be exhausting and time consuming for both parties involved.

We are usually much more utilitarian than we are relational. We look at things through the lens of how useful they are, which is a real shame, because it leads to a real misunderstanding and devaluing of the Christmas story. Often, we see the nativity as just a prelude to Easter. It has little merit of its own. This is in large part because we have a utilitarian understanding of Christianity. We often see Jesus as a divine errand boy who came and to die so that we could go to the good place when we die. He is valuable insofar as he is useful for our ends. Easter gets us to Heaven; Christmas just gets us to Easter.

At least, that’s how things look to us if we keep that modern American lens over our eyes as we read the story, but what if we don’t? What if we look at what the Christmas story is telling us instead of just skipping ahead? What we find is that the Christmas story has a wonderful meaning all on its own that it is trying to communicate to us. It gives us a fuller picture of a God who is not just interested in running an errand, but in knowing and living alongside the lowest castes of humankind. God isn’t just interested in saving us from death- he’s interested in us- period.

And ironically, its that knowing God that actually does save us. When we look at Old Testament passages like Jeremiah 31:34, Jeremiah sees the salvation of all creation come when “all the Earth knows the LORD”. To know him is to draw eternal life from his presence. It’s to fully understand love and joy and peace. When all the Earth knows him, the plagues of cursed existence like war and scarcity can’t exist anymore. Certainly, the cross climactically deals with our sins so that we can be reconciled to God, but it’s Jesus’s life, beginning at Christmas, that makes it possible to fully know God as a person, not having to turn our faces away from the Glory of God like Moses did.

Christmas reveals to us the hospitality and intimacy of God that we Americans are so bad at understanding. It reminds us that God is actually intimately interested in us as people, we can reveal ourselves in full and he cares about us. It also reveals that he wants to be known by us. Christmas gets us out of the mindset that the good life comes from God just giving us a ticket to Heaven. It comes when we begin to know the person of Jesus who is revealed at the incarnation- at Christmas. Christmas is Jesus’ warm invitation to “come in, and know me better man!”, and thus receive the eternal life that comes from knowing God.  

Dan Vandzura