I love Christmas as much as the next guy. Who doesn’t love this time of year? As I type this, the fire is going, rain is pouring, and my five-year old daughter is singing, “Joy to the World”! This truly is one of my favorite seasons.
“Christmas Season” seems to be opening early and earlier. It used to start the day after Thanksgiving with the mad dash (by some) to the mall to score great deals. Over the last few years Christmas has broached this cultural barrier and I have notice Christmas related items in the store simultaneously with Halloween. I heard commentators in the news state this early arrival is because of the emotional strain the war against terrorism and recession have had on the American people and we the people need a little more good feelings this time of the year. I don’t know about this? But it begs the question, “What is Christmas all about?”
This is a good question. In simplest answer it is to celebrate the birth of Christ—in theological terms this is the Incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-11 for more information). This being the foundation of this holiday makes the widespread celebration of this holiday sort of funny in light of the overall rejection of Christ. But for most, holidays are less about the meaning and more about the time off from work and a regular schedule. Not in my home.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that Christmas is bad or that we shouldn’t celebrate it. My goal is to point out how significant the event of Jesus’ birth is for us humans. The most concise verse addressing the importance of this bit of history that changed the world is found in 1 Timothy 1:15. Paul writes, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came [the Incarnation, or the birth of baby Jesus who existed in eternity past] into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost of all.” Clearly Jesus’ birth isn’t celebrated as a standard human birthday, but rejoices in God’s plan of salvation through Christ.
In many respects Christianity has been so warped in our culture that we identify with Christianity while being separated from Christ. What is the message? Fortunately, the message is simple: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the gospel, the good news, but this is just the facts, not an explanation for becoming a Christian.
How do I make gospel have an effect in my life? This is the part that many miss. We know basic tenants of Christianity, attend church a few times a year, probably own a Bible, and try to be basically good people. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it with God because our sin hasn’t been dealt with. My favorite passage that handles salvation, or how one becomes right with God, is found in Ephesians 1:13, “In Him [Jesus], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel [see above (1 Corinthians 15:34)] of your salvation—having also believed [the action that connects the facts to your life], you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…”
My prayer this Christmas season is that you would come to celebrate Christmas because you have received the greatest gift a person could receive—eternal life and peace with God!