It’s that time of year again. Carols are being sung with no one caring if they’re off key or not; presents are being purchased (if not being fought over); lights are blinking and winking from our houses, lamp posts, and department stores; and classic Christmas specials are on our televisions strumming the chords of our sentimentality. Christmas is that special time of year when hearts can’t help but seem to overflow and elves again figure highly in our cultural mythos.
But, when all has been said and done, what is it really that we’re celebrating? Just what is all the hubbub about anyway?
Many a “Merry Christmas” is thrown around with such a casualness that it skirts dangerously close to triteness. Traditions largely ignore the holy significance of the occasion, allowing it to be so eclipsed by pleasurable trivialities that many who celebrate Christmas don’t even really know what it’s all about.
It’s even possible that many who think they know what it’s all about somehow are really missing the awesome point of Christmas. They allow the sum total of their religious perspective to rest in a manger filled with hay, failing to notice that the One Who once occupied it moved on to a cross, then a grave, and then, being resurrected, an eternal throne.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,” records the Apostle John, “which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The Life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us” (1 John 1:1-2 NIV).
Christmas is the celebration of the appearance of the Life of God into the human experience. In a moment, the Word of God was spoken into physical form as His essence took on human flesh. The historical fact of His arrival on planet earth proved the indomitable intent of God to reconcile His rebellious creation with Himself. He came. He lived. He loved. He suffered. He died. He rose again. And now He reigns.
Christmas is when we celebrate the Christ child’s advent into the world but it’s about so much more than a baby in a stable. It’s about God’s love for you and the unthinkable extremes He would go to in order to rescue us from the cruel bondage of our passions, prides, and hatreds as well as their tyrant offspring, disease, despair, and fear.
For most of us, there are certain symbols that we associate with the holiday that we call Christmas. For many, the symbols are largely secular. Santa, his sleigh, reindeer, candy canes, twinkling lights, a decorated tree with presents under it. But then we have the stable, a star, shepherds, wise men, a manger with a proud couple gazing contentedly into its contents: a babe lying in a pile of straw. But just as connected to this holiday is the cross on which Jesus was crucified, the borrowed tomb in which His body was laid, and sight of the Son of God ascending into the clouds, signifying the manner of His second great advent which is yet to come.
What is it that we’re really celebrating? We are celebrating the message of Christmas. Why is this season a season of hope and joy and peace? It’s because the message of Christmas is the message of salvation for all who place their faith in Jesus Christ. It is a party celebrating that God has remembered us and not despised us, helping us by atoning for our sin in the gift of His Son. That’s why we celebrate. Christmas is, when all is said and done, about worship: a season of unrestrained focus and delight in our God.
“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:19-22 NIV).
So enjoy the season. Enjoy it by coming to Him, being forgiven of your sin, and being made new. Enjoy the significance of the holiday, which is not about our gift-giving, time off from school, or even family gatherings. Enjoy with a heart full of appreciation and wonder the incredible love of God that moved Him from His throne to a temporary respite in a humble animal stall and then on to a cruel cross on which He would die for you, only to then resume His place on His throne forever! “O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”