How does the true meaning of Christmas influence the way you celebrate Christmas?
There are a lot of things that I enjoy about Christmas: the lights, carols, cookies, family gatherings, time off from school and work, buying presents for others, snowball fights and sledding down hills, and hot chocolate. I love holiday movies like, “Miracle of 34th Street,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life,” along with animated shows like “A Muppet Christmas,” “The Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
All of those things are fun and enjoyable. Yet it is amazing how those aren’t central, but peripheral to the real reason we celebrate Christmas (and Linus got it right, didn’t he?).
Read Matthew 27:26-31.
Look beyond the Christmas lights, decorations, gifts and music, and there is a Person – Jesus Christ. He was born “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). His mother wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger (2:7). Shepherds sang at his birth about “good news for all people” that “a Savior has been born this day… Christ the Lord” (2:10-11). He grew up as a boy who longed to please His heavenly Father (2:49). He matured into an adult, fully God and fully man, showing power over evil, and comforted and healed those who were hurting (4:36-41).
Eventually, He became the Savior for all, willingly enduring shame, torture and death for you and me (Matthew 27:30-31). He suffered all of this to take our sin upon Himself and give us His righteousness instead (2 Corinthians 5:21).
People often dismiss our conversation when we start talking about the suffering of Christ at Christmas. They argue we miss the spirit of Christmas by being too “negative” at a time when we need to be cheery because of “peace on earth, good will towards men.” But if our primary thought is what presents we buy for others and putting on a happy face, we have missed the life-changing message of the incarnational message of Christmas. Immanuel – God with us, is the message of His birth. His life and ultimate death caps off the greatest story ever told.
The message is that God came to change our hearts and lives through His consecrated life and death. Our sin does not have to control us any longer. We now have no more excuses to fall back on because our lustful and self-centered desires have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 5:24). This does not mean we will no longer struggle with temptation and sin (James 1:14), but we now have access to the power of the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ than our old way of thinking and living. The fruit of that new lifestyle can be ours: gentleness, patience, love, goodness, faithfulness and peace are by-products of choosing to follow Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23).
By following the life and example of our Savior and Lord, we can now be lights in a dark world, rather than examples of lives not well lived. We can invite those who do not have faith in Christ to consider unwrapping the gift of salvation, power, and human flourishing.
If you feel overwhelmed this season and can’t see past the cultural expressions of Christmas, look a little further to see the painful journey Jesus took and what that could mean for you. Grow devotionally. Christ came to take our blame and bring joy to the world.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz