As a church we celebrated Christmas recently by reflecting on John chapter 1 together. In a church service full of regular members, children, English class students, and visitors, the sermon finished like this:
Christmas has over the years morphed into a very general celebration. For most people, it doesn’t mean all that much except food and family. But for Christians, those who know Jesus, it is significant for it reminds us how important it was that Jesus came to earth.
Christmas is not symbolic of new babies and new life. Most people are quite fond of babies, and they remind us of the cycle of life and promise of a future that stretches out before us. That might be inspirational to some, but it’s not big enough.
Christmas is not just about encouraging people to be nice to each other. Much is made of the “Christmas spirit”. It’s not really seen much in the shopping centres this time of year! None of us can keep up the incessant niceness and happiness all the time. At best, this is a short-term thing.
Christmas is not all about family and presents; in fact, present-giving wasn’t a major part of the celebration for a very long time. It has grown with materialism to be a celebration of buying power. But there is nothing special about that really. It is just an extension of the greed in our society and a futile attempt to make ourselves happy by owning more things.
No, Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It is not about inspiring us to be better, but for us to consider why Jesus is so significant. Jesus’ teaching cannot be summed up with “be nice to one another”. No, the summary of Jesus’ teaching is more like “come to Jesus and you will have eternal life, life to the full.”
Jesus’ life was not just nice and a good example. No, he offended many people. He confronted those who thought they were good people. He turned back those who casually followed him. He lived a life perfectly in line with God’s law, never failing, living a life we can never actually live.
And Jesus’ death was an intentional payment for the sins of those who believe. And he rose again to show that it was really done, really accepted, fully completed. Again, a truth that has eyewitnesses, evidence, not just “trust me”. Jesus offers the world life and purpose and hope, knowing we are broken and need help.
If you’re not a Christian right now, think about Jesus today. And not just “I’ve been to church and done the Christian thing, now let’s eat.” No, keep thinking. Read about the real Jesus. He offers grace upon grace, and is more than you have been told before.
If you are a believer today, spend time praying and thanking God for the gift of Jesus. We have all received grace upon grace. Not because we are inspired to be better people; no, because we know we are broken yet God himself came to earth for our sake. Christmas does have a core meaning beyond the vague. Let’s not lose that in the other trappings of the season.