What is Christmas, anyway?

Picture courtesy of my sister at Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World

Picture courtesy of my sister at Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World

Merry Christmas.

Two simple words that generate not-so-simple responses.

To one heart, it brings joy; to another, it brings sorrow. One man smiles at the greeting, and another man gnashes his teeth. One house fills with excitement and gratitude while the house next door drowns in stress and envy.

Christmas once ushered in a time for rest and togetherness on dark winter days; warm drinks and once-a-year-treats enjoyed by the fire; laughter shared by families. Now the days of December overflow with busy schedules, haphazard visits to disconnected relatives “because we have to,” and the shout of advertisements pinging us on billboards, catalogues, FB, Twitter, email—all screaming for us to buy, buy, buy because, because, because.

Carols trill about peace and goodwill, yet people’s faces reflect frustration and strife. What was once considered the most wonderful time of the year has morphed into one of the worst times of the year.

Because ever so slowly, through the passing of decades and generations, we have taken Christ out of Christmas.

Take Christ out of Christmas and what do you have left? A day in late December where people buy stuff for other people because…that’s what you do on this holiday, right? People spend thousands of dollars and go into debt because…that’s what’s expected. Parents buy toys and electronics for their children, whose rooms already explode with under-appreciated “stuff,” because…that’s what society tells them to do. Why?

Take Christ out of Christmas and you have an empty, ridiculous day filled with wasting money on stuff we can get any other day of the year.

But keep Christ in Christmas and you have the next phase of God’s plan fulfilled. Done, because He loves us. Did you know that whole scene in the manger was planned before God breathed the world into being? Did you know He had you in mind when He sent His Son to live among us in a form with which we could identify? And touch. And hug. And look upon. See his eyes? They shine with unconditional love—for you. For me. See his smile? He smiles with patience and deep understanding—for you. For me.

God loved us before we even knew or acknowledged He existed. That miserly co-worker in the next cubicle? God loves him. That group that defies your morals and values? God loves them. Those terrorists with malicious intent in their hearts? God. Loves. them.

True, He doesn’t want them to stay that way. He doesn’t condone their selfish actions, their sin, any more than He condones mine. Yet He still loves us in spite of those things. And he yearns for us to know Him—not as a judge with hammer in hand; not as a genie to grant our wishes—but as a Father who wants the very best for His children.

Jesus gave up his deity for more than three decades to live among us so that we would have a visible picture reflecting in full the nature of the invisible God. And even though we can’t see Him with our human eyes, our spiritual eyes can experience His goodness, mercies, love, and presence every single day.

God's decorations on my decorations.

God’s decorations on my decorations in the form of hoarfrost.

Did you see the sunrise this morning? God did that. Did you notice the hoarfrost yesterday? God did that. Did you utilize some form of transportation on your way to work? Enjoy the game on your flatscreen TV? Text a friend on your smartphone? God blessed mankind with the minds to create those things. Did you take time to marvel at your child’s face before sending her off to school? Or wonder over your baby’s fingers before settling him down for a nap? God created those little ones, too. And they have worth–not because of what Hollywood says or what their friends think–but because God created them on purpose. And that which He creates, He loves.

Christmas represents God’s love for people when the Creator became the created—human limitations and all—knowing from the onset that His earthly path would take Him through the splinters of a cross before He could return to His rightful place of glory.

Because. He. Loves. Us.

That is Christmas. That is love.

Sacrificial. Selfless. Unconditional. “Even before he made the world, God loved us…” Ephesians 1:4a.

This Christmas season, may you somehow, in some way, through someone, encounter the joy, comfort, and peace that can only come from recognizing the Source of it all.

God Incarnate: Jesus Christ. Emmanuel: God with us.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loves us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10 NLT; boldface mine

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:4-8 NLT; boldface mine

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