by Rev. Thomas Chryst
It’s finally here. After all the preparations, all the waiting, all the expectation, Christmas is here.
And Christmas is many things. Christmas is decorations and celebrations. Christmas is ham and eggnog and cookies. Christmas is white and red and green. Christmas is visions of sugarplums and big-hearted grinches. Or is it?
Christmas is family. Christmas is spending time with loved ones. Christmas is love and joy and peace and good cheer. Christmas is giving, not receiving. Or is it?
Is Christmas all these things? Surely it’s not the crass and the outward, the greedy selfishness and sparkly lights. Perhaps it’s the higher ideals, the love and generosity, the “spirit of Christmas” sort of thing. Or is it?
What is Christmas without Christ? It isn’t.
And for all the moaning we do about “keeping Christ in Christmas,” for all the tisk-tisks we point at our world, for all the rightful criticism of those people who lose the true reason for the season, we aren’t much better.
We are payers of lip service. We say it’s all about Jesus. We make a point of saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” We even go to church when everyone else is at home unwrapping presents and relaxing. We look good on the outside. But on the inside, from within us, comes the rot. Sin. Deceit. Selfishness. Anger. Revenge. Doubts. Lusts. Arrogance. Self-righteousness. And when no one is looking, and even sometimes when they are, the fangs come out. We show ourselves.
Christmas is, for many of us, another opportunity to lie to ourselves, to find comfort and peace somewhere other than in Christ, to tell ourselves how good we are for all our generosity, to pat ourselves on the back for how hard we worked to bring it all together, to distract ourselves from reality with some warm fuzzies and fleeting nostalgia. But none of that is really Christmas.
For some, Christmas isn’t even that. It’s a time to remember, perhaps in great sadness. It’s a time to lament the losses of our life, the loved ones who are gone. It’s a time of loneliness and helplessness, a sad little corner of the year that no one else seems to visit like you do. Is this what Christmas is?
Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus, we lose Christmas, no matter the reason, no matter what the date on the calendar says.
If Jesus is the reason for the season, what is the reason for Jesus? Why did He bother? Why give up His throne, His honor, His power and glory? Why be born a human? Why follow all the rules, heal the sick, raise the dead and preach good news to the poor? Why the betrayal, the suffering, the mockery, the sentence of death? Why the cross?
Jesus has a reason: To save. The reason He was born was to die. The reason He died is to save, to save you and me and all people from sin, to save us from the devil’s power when we were gone astray, to save us from death by His death, to save us for life by His rising to life again.
Without Christ–the Christ who lives and dies for us–Christmas is nothing. But with Jesus, Christmas is everything. It is the cause for wonder and joy. It is a treasure for the heart. It is glory to God and peace on earth. With Jesus and in Jesus, Christmas is cause for singing and rejoicing, celebration and good cheer. Christ comes to save us from sin.
Christmas isn’t anything more or less than the recognition that God’s own Son sets foot on our little pebble of a planet. He stoops so low as to put on our skin and bones. He fulfills His ancient promises to His people. He, and He alone, is the worker of salvation. Christmas is about Christ, what He does, and those for whom He does it. Jesus Christ is for you, for us all.
Christmas is life. It is the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life and the beginning of our eternal life. It’s the first earthly step in the Son of God’s walk to the cross and of our flight with Him to heaven. Christmas greens–evergreens–do well in reminding us that in Christ our life is forever.
Christmas is love. God is love, and that love became flesh at Christmas. But love isn’t just feelings. It’s action. And greater love has no one than laying down His life for His friends. That kind of love was just what this baby is about.
Christmas is gifts. It’s not about your little gifts, given or received. But it is about God’s greatest gift and the multitude of gifts He brings. Jesus gives life, salvation, righteousness, healing, relief, atonement, resurrection, new birth, new creation, a crown of victory, a place in the Father’s house, and God’s love and favor. He gives water and Word in a flood of blessings. He gives His body and blood in a feast of forgiveness. They are Christmas gifts, if you will, from God’s gift to this earth.
Christmas is all about Christ. Have a blessed Christmas in Him, our newborn King.
About the Author: Rev. Thomas Chryst is associate pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Racine, Wis.