The Meaning of Christmas

It’s inevitable this time of year.  People seem obsessed with “putting Christ back into Christmas”.  They seem to mean by this that we should put Nativity scenes up instead of Christmas trees, and that we should rant incessantly about spelling the holiday “Christmas” instead of “xmas”. Soon we will be asked to share memes if we agree that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Even now, perhaps there are some that are concerned that I might be taking too light a view on changing Christmas to “xmas”.  No, I’m not. “X” is simply a Greek chi, and for 2,000 years it has stood for the name “Christ.” Everyone relax.

I agree that at many times the holiday seems overdone, vain and aesthetically offensive. Christians are not immune to this charge.  There are only so many times that you can hear “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Mary did you know?”

On the one hand, people become obsessed with gifts, wrapping presents and staying busy to ‘get into the Christmas spirit”, and the marketplace takes advantage.  On the other hand are those who decry the commercialism of Christmas, and shout to “remember the true meaning of Christmas”.  Movies and stories abound, teaching us that the true meaning of Christmas is family, doing good to others, sharing, and basically remembering that we can make a difference with sacrificial works and putting others, primarily children, first.  

But did God send His Son into the world in the womb of the virgin in order to teach us better ways of being better people?  Did God really become flesh and dwell among us so that we could go to Walmart and buy plastic idols to put on our front lawn, patting ourselves on the back for putting Christ back into Christmas?  Not according to the Bible.

People have tried for thousands of years to “make a difference” and after a few well-meaning spurts of outward displays of charity they  immediately return to their vain, shallow, cruel and abusive lives.  The fact is that we are all so hopeless, powerless, vain, shallow, self-centered and sinful that there was absolutely no hope in humanity whatsoever.  Every single one of us from the fall of man until now is subject to death and misery.  We aren’t smart enough, loving enough, strong enough or good enough to do anything about it.

But our natural religion says that we can fix this mess by greater motivation, or bigger acts of charity.  We can make a difference by doing better things better, by loving more, by “remembering the true meaning of Christmas all year round”, or by electing people smart enough to fix all of our problems.

It never works and never has.  But as a dog returns to his vomit, we return to our folly.  Every year at Christmas we offer our incense to the plastic gods of our self-righteousness, pat ourselves on the back for being basically good people, cry over “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and try to convince ourselves that we really can make a difference if we just try harder.

But what if we really aren’t good enough?  What if there really isn’t anything that we can do to make a difference?  What do we do when something happens in our lives that leaves us devastated, and there isn’t anything that we can or could have done about it?

What sacrifice will you offer to your gods that will take away the pain, misery and emptiness of the vanity of life?

Now we can begin to see the true meaning of Christmas.  The angel told Joseph “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins”.

It isn’t about the spirit of giving.  It isn’t about the message of Santa inside of each one of us.  It isn’t about our basic goodness and kindness, for we have none.  The fact is this:  We are so hopeless, vile and corrupt that there is no possibility of saving ourselves in any way.  If there is any hope for man, God must save him.  So God became flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary in order to take the curse of death upon himself.  He gives us His righteousness, for we have none of our own.  And He takes our vile rags on Himself, dying under God’s curse, so that we might live.

When He rose from the dead, He showed the world that the curse was finally taken away, and He now reigns until all of His enemies are put under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Fellow professing Christians, please quit fretting about “secular humanists” or Hollywood taking Christ out of Christmas.  We have been managing the mangling of the gospel just fine without their help.  When we send the message that it’s about nativity scenes, “xmas”, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, giving and works of charity, all we are doing is enforcing man’s natural religion: that we can make a difference by our efforts and good will.

If we could have made a difference in this world, Jesus would not have had to come. The baby in the manger was the eternal, almighty, glorious Son of God, “whose goings forth are of old”. Instead of teaching us the inherent goodness of man, it teaches the opposite. We were so lost and helpless that it came to this. God became flesh and came to save us. He became poor, despised, rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief in our place.  That was what we deserved – the outer darkness of hell. But Jesus took it upon Himself. Every child but one was born to live. Jesus was born to die.

Only when we get that figured out can we eat our bread with joy, drink our wine with a merry heart, live joyfully with our wives, and do what we can to relieve some of the suffering around us.  But this is only possible if we aren’t trying to save the world.  God will not give his glory to another, and there is only One Savior.  We will never save the world.  We will never HELP God save the world.  Only Jesus is strong enough, wise enough, good enough and loving enough.  All we can do is offer our lives to Him with gratitude and awe.  All we can do is wait and see the salvation of the Lord.

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