Christmas is certainly one of the days of the year that evokes the most spiritual attention. Even if you don’t think about God most days of the year, it is likely that you do on Christmas. Although the holiday has been largely commercialized and even Christians buy into the commercialism, I believe there is still a remnant of meaning left in the holiday. Unlike other holidays with Christian undertones like St. Patty’s day or Valentine’s day, Christmas is a little too specifically Christian to be ignored.
In the midst of gift-giving, feasting, family time, and celebration, there is something underneath all of the festivities that is reminiscent of something deeper. In our busyness, occasionally we pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing all of this”. We are doing this, of course, because we are celebrating Jesus’ birth. But why is that significant to you? If you can’t answer that question, you might as well celebrate Festivus.
Amid the empty and judgmental calls to “Keep Christ in Christmas”, “It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays”, and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, I hope that Jesus becomes to us more than a person we use to critique our culture. I hope that we understand Jesus to be more than someone who endorses our materialism. And I certainly hope that Jesus is more important than a day on a calendar to us.
Christmas sermons challenge us to be selfless, generous, and serving. But if they do not challenge us to pursue Jesus with our whole lives, then we have misunderstood why Jesus comes to humanity and spends his first night in a feeding trough. He comes to fulfill promises God made to Israel. He comes to live among humanity as human so that he can represent humans in his death and resurrection. He comes to conquer sin and death. He comes to raise from the dead. And he will come again to finally fulfill, finally rescue, and finally raise believers from the grave to eternal life. He forms this eternal-kind-of-life within us now through trial, suffering, devotion, and community and he will complete this formation one day. Among the other things, when God humbles himself to the point of being born as a baby in a barn, we learn that God is in control. We might also say, God is sovereign. God was, is, and will be in control. When we awake on Monday and Christmas is over for another year, God will be in control.
Christmas is about the Gospel and it should point us to the Gospel. Christmas is about what Jesus has done. Some churches call it Advent (“Coming”) because what Jesus has done is pointing us to what Jesus will do (Come again!). When we celebrate Advent (or Christmas if you prefer), we celebrate that Jesus has come because that means he will come again to set everything right. This means that even for those who disdain Christmas, there is hope. God is sovereign and one day he will set everything right. One day we will understand how all the terrible and sorrowful things that prevent some from enjoying the holidays fit into the plan of a loving and sovereign God.
God loves us and goes to great lengths to display this to us: setting aside the privileges of divinity, becoming a baby, growing up, living life, being betrayed by his friends, being murdered, and raising himself from death to life. He humbles himself to this point to show you and me that he has a great plan and his great love includes us in it. This truly makes Christmas a merry one.