I don’t care what you say, my family has THE coolest Christmas tradition ever.
It all began years ago when my brother and I came downstairs to find a ransom note hanging on the mantle in place of our stockings. Upon reading the note we learned that the Grinch had come to our house and stolen our presents. That’s right, The Grinch.
The only way to retrieve our stolen stockings was to embark on a scavenger hunt throughout the house, decoding numerous tricky clues. Only if we were clever enough to uncover the meanings of the clues would we be able to find our presents.
Over the years, this tradition has evolved. My dad burned out from coming up with so many riddles, so the scavenger hunt has now been reduced to one single puzzle. But make no mistake–these puzzles have not gotten easier as my brother and I have aged.
Two years ago we had to fill out an elaborate Christmas crossword puzzle, then we used key letters from the crossword to spell out the location of our presents. That puzzle was my dad’s finest masterpiece. The questions were all Christmas related, but they were insanely obscure–I don’t even know where he found that information! It definitely blew my seminary degree to smithereens. Nothing kicks off Christmas better than a little shame and humiliation.
Now the reason I wanted to share this tradition with you is not to brag on how cool my dad is (or to subliminally beg him to PLEASE keep on making the puzzles even though I’m 27 years old and I should have outgrown them and he’s getting tired of making them). The reason I bring it up is that there is something profoundly theological about this tradition.
I’d never noticed it before until I heard a pastor describe his own family’s practice of putting riddles on each present before they could be opened. The riddle would be a clue as to what was inside, and the pastor compared this practice to the story of Scripture.
Frequently, we tell the Christmas story as if it is a sudden break in the narrative. All the boring Old Testamenty stuff was going on, but out of nowhere Jesus bursts upon the scene and things suddenly get interesting. Because it appears at the beginning of the New Testament, we read the birth narrative as a transition point that divides the Bible in half: there’s pre-Jesus, and post-Jesus.
But in reality, the Christmas story is more like my scavenger hunt. Prior to receiving my presents there were tons of clues leading me to them. The gifts didn’t just appear out of nowhere–the puzzles were pointing me to them all along. And it is the same with the Christmas story. Jesus doesn’t just drop into the story abruptly. All over the Old Testament there are clues pointing God’s people to him. The Old Testament is just as much a part of the Christmas story as the Gospels.
From Genesis onward, we see hundreds of clues directing us to the coming of Christ. Even the title of this post comes from Isaiah 9–check it out. It is a beautiful description of Christ’s birth, only it was written hundreds of years before he was born. Indeed, the Old Testament is all building up to this moment.
And given that fact, we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas just once a year. Yes, let’s take some time to rest and celebrate, but if Scripture never stopped pointing to Christ, then neither should we. The entire story, Genesis to Revelation, is all about Jesus, and that is a model for our lives. We must celebrate Christ and point others towards him with the same consistency and fervency that we do at Christmas time.
With that in mind, I want to close with an excerpt from Isaiah 9. Read it and imagine the expectancy of the Israelites as they awaited the coming of this marvelous event:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. –Isaiah 9:6