Friday, December 26, 2014

Significance of Christmas

We just celebrated Christmas, and for many it is a secular holiday. To them it is about family, shopping, good cheer, Santa Claus, and all that warm and fuzzy stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for those of us who are Christians, the day has a much deeper meaning that often gets lost in the busyness of the season. In addition, political correctness – that harsh taskmaster of linguistic control – dictates that we wish people the insipid “happy holidays” lest we offend someone. Since many non-Christians celebrate some form of Christmas, I don’t think too many people – except for die-hard bigots – would be offended by our good wishes.

I invite you to consider the deeper meaning of Christmas alluded to above. That deeper meaning is summarized in Philippians 2:5-8
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; 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 and died a criminal's death on a cross. (Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.)

Read the above passage several times to get the full meaning. Just think of it: Jesus left heaven and came to earth in the form of a man to ultimately suffer and die on our behalf. That’s because of God’s love for us.

We read in John 1:14-15:
And the Word [referring to Jesus] became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. NRSV

Why did Jesus “become flesh and dwell among us?” There are at least two reasons, the first one being by far the most important as we read in that well-known passage John 3:16-17:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. NRSV

The second reason is spelled out in Hebrews 4:15:
For we do not have a high priest [referring to Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. NIV

There’s a lot more to Christmas than this brief overview provides, but I invite Christians to keep in mind what God did for us in sending Jesus into the world. What did God accomplish? As the Charles Wesley hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” tells us:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

A separation from God exists because of mankind’s sinfulness. Christ’s death on the cross wiped away the stain of sin and reconciled us to God. Those who accept what Jesus did on the cross are back in right relationship with God. We can’t earn our way into that relationship, as we read in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Jesus and what he did], and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. NRSV

I wish you a blessed (if late) Christmas and all God’s best for you in the New Year.

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