On the surface, what do you think Christmas means to most Americans? They probably know the storyline but in their day to day living, what does this time of the year look like? For those in business it is a time for making money. For those serving in a non-profit, it is a time for asking for money. For the average person, it is about Christmas carols, shopping for gifts, putting up lights & decorations, going to or hosting parties, attending programs, etc. which is a mixed bag of fun and frustration. In the hectic pace of the season, even the most devout Christian can become so distracted with busyness they are unable to focus much on the real meaning of Christmas. And for that matter, are we sure we know the real meaning of Christmas?
We are told to try to look at life through God’s eyes so let’s give that a try. Here is what we know. God created humanity and it was “good.” As time progressed, His creation violated the simple rule He gave them which is commonly referred to as ‘the fall of man’. Genesis 6:6 NLT “So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” He had made a plan so the humans who responded to His invitation could be forgiven and become close friends with Him. That plan is the objective of what we call Christmas. That plan was great for humanity, as the angel said to the shepherds and the angelic choir sang. On the other hand, His incredible gift came as an excruciating sacrifice to Him! Are any of us up for offering our child to die for others, many of whom could care less about this act of sacrificial love? Imagine what Christmas may have felt like when, in the fullness of time the ‘day’ came for God to execute His well laid plan.
We normally think of the Passion of Jesus (Easter) as the time God sacrificed so much for us. Of course, the Father and Holy Spirit agonized when they saw the Son endure what He did—but in just a few moments this ugly pain would be over, and Christ would return to Heaven! Imagine His anticipation!
How do you think the Father felt when His Son left Heaven knowing the rejection and all the pain the Son would have to endure? How do you feel when you send your child off to go into the military? Don’t you at least cringe a bit.
How do you imagine Christ felt when He left the splendor of Heaven, laid aside all the divine attributes that made Him God so He could ‘wake up’ as the totally helpless, human baby Jesus in a stinky, dirty shelter with animals around you? Not even an angel had been drug through that ‘knot hole’ and out the other side. Can you imagine President Trump, or any human monarch or Prime Minister, humbling him/herself to go through this? Paul described it this way, Philippians 2:6-8 NLT “Though he [Christ Jesus] was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges [laid aside His divine attributes]; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God [the King] and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
So, what does Christmas really mean? Are we to try to think of this from God’s perspective? If so, how might that affect how we celebrate this Christmas? I can’t control what Christmas means to others. But I can affect the way I celebrate what I know as Christmas. I sense a very mixed bag of emotions, sort of like when your ailing parent or child goes to be with our Lord. I have an element of true joy, but mixed with a heavy dose of deep humility and gratitude. How about you?