What are we celebrating this month? What is all this for? You know, understanding the meaning of Christmas is actually a challenge for most people who will be celebrating it these days. Only isolated outcrops of Christians in our social landscape have kept kindled the true meaning of Christmas. If you ask most people you’ll get answers like, love, joy, charity, goodwill to others, giving, and the like. They are great answers and great things to celebrate, but they are not what’s at the heart of Christmas. Outside the church people only see Jesus as central to Christmas in a historical sense: Jesus is the root of the tradition, but not why we celebrate today. It’s only in the church where this tide is pushed back.
Why do we celebrate Jesus at Christmas, on December 25th? You know the Bible doesn’t really care about celebrating Jesus’ birth. It’s never commanded. Plus, Jesus’ date of birth is never given further making the point that this isn’t a Biblical priority. Yet, the New Testament stresses the freedom we have as believers to celebrate feasts and festivals when we want, so it doesn’t particularly matter that we probably get the day wrong. Since birthdays are such a major part of our modern celebrations, why not also celebrate the birthday of Jesus?
Interestingly though, we don’t often celebrate the birthdays of the deceased, especially not for over two thousand years. Ironically, we celebrate Jesus’ birth because of His death. We don’t celebrate Jesus on Christmas because he was a great teacher, or a great man, impactful and wise. No, we celebrate Him because of the way He died. It wasn’t the astounding fall from popular prophet to crucified criminal, nor the shocking betrayal and abandonment of His closest followers that make His death so memorable to us. Those facts are in the past. Jesus’ death is so memorable to us because it impacts us today.
Jesus’ death is so memorable to us because it impacts us today.
When Jesus hung from the cross, much more was going on. God the Father poured out on Jesus the punishment for the evil of the world, the sin and brokenness of fallen humanity, all of the selfish and wrong things we have done. Jesus hanging from the cross became our sacrifice, our substitute. Now, if we in faith embrace Jesus as our sacrifice personally, and trust that God will forgive us our wrongdoings as a result, then we will be given a never-ending relationship with God based on His unchanging love. What’s all the more shocking is that Jesus, as the Son of God, chose this before being born into human nature. This is Jesus’ gift to us. If you don’t have a relationship with God, I hope you’ve felt blessed. I encourage you to consider why God has brought you here this Christmas. The Bible tells us God wants everyone to come to know Him. Reach out to Him in faith and ask for His forgiveness and we will grant you His peace. This is ultimately what we celebrate at Christmas.
I can see how the popular meaning of Christmas has been worn and whittled down to such concepts as love, goodwill, charity. We certainly see these expressed in the story of Jesus, and His death for us. But deeper to the heart of this story, and this holiday, is the concept of grace. Undeserved and unearned favour from one to another: this is how God treats us. As we go about with family and friends this Christmas season let us extend grace to one another. The holidays often force us to engage in our messy relationships, but since the heart of Christmas is grace given to the undeserved, let’s challenge ourselves. Let’s be agents of Christmas grace.
Undeserved and unearned favour from one to another:
this is how God treats us.