“Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine
Children singing Christian rhyme”
So begins the chorus of the inexplicably popular Christmas song by Cliff Richard. And as we approach the Christmas period those lines provide a couple of images that point to what Christmas was pointing to. Because that night in Bethlehem was only the opening act, the start of a story that would unfold over the next 33 years. A story that didn’t happen by chance. A story that had been planned out long in advance. From right at the start of creation a snake crusher had been promised (Genesis 3:15). The baby in a manger had been parachuted in behind enemy lines for a daring rescue mission that would defeat the power of sin and death once and for all. It started with a birth. But it was all leading to a cross.
Wine. Lots of it tends to get drunk at parties at this time of year. Every year I go to the Christmas Market and have a glass of mulled wine. And then every year I remember why I only ever have one glass…
33 years after that first Christmas night Jesus and His disciples were gathered round having a meal. When suddenly Jesus grabbed the wine and used it prophetically to symbolise that He was about to shed His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Mistletoe. A green plant with white berries. Hung at Christmas parties to elicit kisses from unsuspecting victims. Probably infested with nargles. Mistletoe – a symbol that means a friendly greeting kiss is expected. Gethsemane – the olive groove in Jerusalem. The place where Jesus prayed to God “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Gethsemane – where Judas greets Jesus with a kiss that seals His fate. A kiss that gave him away to the armed mob who took Him to the rigged council of religious leaders who had already decided Jesus is guilty and must be killed. This Christmas, as you look upon mistletoe, as you long to catch that guy or that girl standing under it, remember our Saviour and the kiss that betrayed him.
Christmas time. It started in a manger. It began with a baby. But it was headed to a cross. There was a betrayal to come. A friendship exchanged for 30 silver coins. A leader given away by a kiss. Taken to a cross. The only totally innocent blood was shed. Christmas time. Mistletoe and wine. That’s what Christmas points to. But the cross is not the end of the story. This is a story that ends with an empty grave. Satan doesn’t get the last word. He doesn’t get the victory. The story begins with a baby in a manger. It ends with an empty grave and Jesus risen, triumphant. Christmas was the start of the unfolding of the greatest story ever told, a story that shows us that this world is temporary. That pain and suffering is temporary. That death’s power is limited. That victory is God’s. A story that promises hope. A story that shows God himself was willing to come down and be with us. Christmas is about more than just a baby. It’s about what that baby would accomplish for us. It’s about the Son of God, dying on a cross for you and me. It’s about blood, shed in an act of ultimate love, as heaven and earth met like a sloppy wet kiss. It’s about Jesus saying “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). The gift of salvation, made available to all who call on the name of the Lord.
“Love and laughter and joy ever after,
Ours for the taking, just follow the master.”