More identity in Jesus Christ and less in earthly identity
By Th. Mangthianlal
The other day I was struggling to find a correct and meaningful portrayal of Christmas picture for my Facebook profile cover. In the process, I stumbled upon one important fact – that much of the Christmas cards, costumes, wishes, greetings, designs, and photos we use are far away from the true message of Christmas. And that is why I used to be very careful till today to avoid the use of Santa Claus in Christmas celebration. Last week, I shared in Facebook one beautiful Christmas story but quickly removed it as it had a Santa Claus tag for I am afraid that I may point to others more of Santa and not God.
As a person who has an interest in art, one thing I learn about Christian art-work mission is that the art is not an end in itself. Symbols, designs and gestures used in Christianity is not just for the sake of enjoyment. Just like the cross symbolizes that Jesus Christ died for us in order to save us from our sins and rose again on the third day, the picture of baby Jesus Christ in a manger, with Joseph and Mary and with animals around, conveys to us the truth about our savior’s incarnation in flesh and blood with a purpose to save us from our sin and eternal damnation.
If I use a card or home decoration or costume of Santa Claus, it conveys to non-believers or to my children or those who see it not about Jesus Christ but about enjoyment, gift and partying. It points to something about all merry-making. But if I use a different picture which portrays about Jesus birth in one way or another, it points to a deeper spirituality and historical reality that Jesus Christ was born in flesh and blood who ultimately died for us on the cross with the purpose of redeeming and giving us eternal life. His ultimate goal was to restore our spiritual state that we become child of God.
At last, my struggle was over when brother Nathan Bawm from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh posted a very beautifully drawn Christmas photo with a cultural touch. It was about the nativity scene in a CHT hamlet background. He himself wrote it.
Today, apart from our original sin and our personal sins, God wants to save us from the satanic stronghold of bondage where most of us are trapped. This is about the sins of earthly identity. This has to do with over-identification with one’s own culture, language, land and organization. It is about the way we put number one our tribe-identity above our identity in Jesus Christ. This is idolatry in the sight of God for a simple Biblical understanding of idolatry is putting something or someone more higher or important than God. The word of God exhorts us to seek first His kingdom and then all earthly things will also fall into its perfect place. But we seek after these things first and the more we seek them, it seems we are chasing away farther and farther.
If you are not having a saving faith experience till now, this Christmas is a very good time for you to believe in Jesus Christ and confess your sin and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior into your heart and life. The word of God says, “Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
And for those who already experience salvation in a personal way, let us review whether the way we preserve or exert our physical identity is a reflection of a child of God. Let us follow the true footsteps of a disciple of Christ. Let us seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness this Christmas and all through our lives. For we all know that if we love our earthly identity, people and land more than we love God, we will destroy everything we love and care. If our physical identity and not our spiritual identity is our prerogative, then we are nothing but idol worshippers. And the sure end of idolatrousness is destruction.
May this Christmas be a call for all of us to love Jesus Christ supremely with all our hearts, minds and souls and with all our beings! And may that totality of God’s love in our hearts cast away the obsession of our tribal affiliations and mindsets which satan has a stronghold. In this way, we will love less of ourselves and more of God. And in loving more of God and less of ourselves and each other, we will come to a state of reconciliation, peace and unity. In the process, we will begin to experience the love of our fellow brothers and sisters in a mysterious way. And Christmas will really be born and meaningful in our hearts, land and lives.
The story of Christmas, coming alive in our individuals and community-nation’s life, is our only hope in this part of the world and in every part of the world. Christmas is the true and only answer for all our social ills and problems rooted in our original sin. May Jesus Christ save us from this original sin and from our idolatrous lifestyles!
The writer is an India-based Christian Pastor and social worker.