With the turning of the calendar, the march to Christmas is upon us. Each year it comes up so fast, doesn’t it? I find myself wanting to put the trimmings up earlier and start the baking (and eating) sooner just so I can enjoy the season a little longer. I know some say there’s an unwritten rule that we can’t start Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I say, why not roll it all together? Besides, after all the buildup for Halloween (don’t get me started on that holiday), I’m ready to hit the refresh button and put out the green and red. But I realize this is my personal opinion on the matter!
Today’s blog is to consider why Christmas still matters. I’ve already touched a bit upon the nostalgic part which we can easily default to: the lights, the trees, the presents, maybe even the sappy movies(?). But it’s the practical part of Christmas I’m concerned with here. The reason for Christmas. This is the part that can get lost in the mix of all of those other things…things that aren’t necessarily bad but don’t point us to Christ.
As I dive into the merits I personally see about Christmas, I realize there is growing division about whether or not to even celebrate — from a Christian standpoint. There are those who tie the origins of the holiday into something that was pagan at the start. There are those who say Christ was not even born at Christmas. And there are those who try to follow the holiday schedule less and focus more on the feast schedule according to the Bible.
I’m not here to defend or debate a position on this. I want to dialogue on why Christmas matters in the whole scope of the Gospel. To state why the story is important even if we do not celebrate in a traditional sense. I feel it is important to address this at the start so as to not lose readers. In my mind, Christmas is wrapped up in God’s great story and whether or not the date happened on December 25th (or another day), it still happened.
All this being said, let’s dive in!
1. Christmas points to the cross
[He] emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7,8
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh
The Babe, the Son of Mary (What Child Is This?)
The connection from the sweet baby in a manger to the crucified and bloodied Savior on the cross can be a bit of a leap. Often at Christmas we take in the baby once again and marvel at the story (the angels, the shepherds, Mary & Joseph, and so on). But we almost romanticize things to the point we forget why Christ came. His advent led to the cross; the road from the manger and Bethlehem had to eventually go through Jerusalem and Golgotha. When we celebrate Christmas we acknowledge this. Consider the words of Isaiah. He prophesied the coming Christ-child (For unto us a child is born…Isaiah 9:6) and the crucified Savior:
But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the cross as well knowing the steps awaiting this baby would include His sacrifice. Christmas will always matter this side of eternity because it is Christ’s entry into our world. It is Him taking on flesh and fulfilling the plan God had from the beginning. Moving forward, these points take a sort of top-down approach as we work out from this truth, knowing here is where we start.
2. Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promise
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:15
The Old Testament has dozens of references that point to the coming of Christ; to a Messiah. As early as Genesis 3, God reveals the intention of the One Who is to come. In speaking to the serpent (Satan), Jesus’ coming is foretold: He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel. Jesus will conquer Satan. But it will come at a cost — He will be bruised in the process (His sacrifice). Other verses such as Isaiah 7:14 point to the virgin birth: Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Luke 1:35 is the fulfillment of this promise: And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Christmas is the reminder that God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. What He says He will do, He will do. Christmas is a time to remember that the baby in the manger was the fulfillment of 1000s of years of prophecies and texts to which the Jews had clung to. The greater Gentile audience today is the beneficiary of this great unfolding. Beyond seeing the Gospel message inherent in Christmas, our celebration of the day causes us to worship a God Who finishes what He starts!
3. Christmas shows us that God uses fallible, imperfect people — and still does
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
A truth I find amazing every year at Christmas is that God uses imperfect people to bring about His perfect will. The Lord chose Mary. He revealed His will to her. He also chose Joseph to be part of the story and reassured him — this is My will. Could God have done it another way and through other, lesser flawed means? I think so (but I don’t have Biblical evidence to argue this). The fact is, He chooses this storyline as the means to usher in His redemptive plan. It doesn’t make sense to us but then again, neither does the plan He uses to establish His church and His Kingdom. He uses us once again.
All of this tells me that as I walk through the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, there is a strong tie at the beginning of the story with the end. The Book of Matthew starts with Jesus’ birth and it ends with the Great Commission. With those two bookends, there is human involvement and we have an active role in the process. I’m wowed by that. Christmas takes on a whole other level of meaning when I consider this: He used humanity to come into this world and He still partners with us today. Praise God!
As I conclude this blog, I am inclined to consider the words of another Christmas hymn, I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day by Henry Longfellow. I don’t hear this song sung as often as other favorite carols. But in going back and reading the lyrics, I find great truths in the message. In particular, this verse stands out:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Christmas is important because it points to the Gospel and the promise God has kept. In addition, it shows that we are caught up in and part of His great plan on the Earth. Beyond this, the road for Christ wasn’t just manger to cross. It included the tomb which was once occupied but now is empty. These lines by Longfellow direct our thoughts to this truth: God is not dead. Truth will win the day. The wrong shall fail and the right will prevail. Amen, hallelujah. As we consider Christmas and why it still matters may we be brought all the way to the end — that Christ shall reign and we shall be with Him in heaven.
As December rolls along I hope you will have many opportunities to consider these points and others as you reflect on Christmas. Perhaps this day is a somewhat ritualistic observation for you. Something you do to “check the box” but isn’t anything you have ascribed meaning and value to (at least not in recent years). Perhaps a prayer you can have is to simply allow God’s truth to awaken you afresh this year at Christmas. To see Him as the conquering, risen Savior…not just the baby lying in a manger. It’s all part of the Gospel story. It’s all true. May we come to fall in love with Him all over again this Christmas season.
As always, I am grateful to be on this journey with you and to be part of what the Lord is doing in His people. God bless you today!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17