It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season sneaks up on you when you’re not paying attention. It wasn’t until people at church started handing me packages of mixed snacks that I realized Christmas is this week. Thankfully, I have friends who keep the reason for this season on my mind at all times.
I always find it utterly difficult to get in the holiday spirit in Southern California. Aside from the slightly colder weather we experience at night, there really isn’t anything that resembles what most consider a “traditional” Christmas. Still, I can enjoy all the Southern California-esque aspects of the holiday season: the malls are packed (I tried going shopping with my siblings yesterday…we spent more time in traffic than in the mall), football and basketball games galore (Lakers vs. Cavs on Christmas Day!), and my bank account is at an all-time low. Plus I get to spend time at home reading, (w)riting and relaxing. There’s nothing like having a good book, some tea, and a nice comfortable chair to bring about the holiday spirit.
Even so, I think Christians should be more excited about Christmas than anyone else. Not because of the above reasons, but because of the spiritual implications that this holiday has on our lives. This should be a season of worship for us. This holiday represents the birth of the single-most important figure in all of human history—the Alpha and Omega, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the prophesied Messiah. The fact that our God would take the form of a human in the baby Jesus should be absolutely mind-boggling. Humbly the Creator became a part of his creation as it is described in Philippians 2:5-8:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This and every Christmas marks the beginnings of God’s great plan to save wretched sinners from their own death; with Jesus’ birth comes hope, love, and unspeakable joy. The incarnation signifies the act of God the Son whereby he took a human nature. Jesus, fully God and fully Man, “made himself nothing…being born in the likeness of men.” But even more, Christmas should remind us that Jesus was born to die by “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He was born a martyr, a glimpse of God’s grace to us who were condemned to an eternity in Hell. Jesus would die a criminal’s death on the cross, saving us from our sins and redeeming us to the sovereign God. As Christians, this is what we find our hope in, this is what Christmas truly signifies. This, in light of eternity, should encourage us to worship our Savior all the more.
I could never understand exactly why gift giving was the highlight of the Christmas season. Maybe it was supposed to be symbolic of the gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense given to Joseph and Mary by the wise men. If so, it’s disheartening to think that that’s the part of the Christmas narrative that society has chosen to emphasize. As Christians, we know that Jesus was the ultimate gift given to us by our God. Our Savior was the greatest gift given to us on this day as the apostle Paul reminds us later in Ephesians 2:8 where he writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
This is a clear reminder that this should be a season of evangelism for us. For me it’s tempting to think that buying my brother the video camera that he’s always wanted or getting my dad a nice lawn mower will make them happy; and though it probably will satisfy them for the time being, those gifts will lose their luster in time. In economics they call it the diminishing marginal utility: when the happiness we experience with earthly treasures slowly but surely wears off until we “normalize” back into our discontent nature. There is only one gift that brings eternal joy and satisfaction: Jesus the Christ.
In light of eternity, we need to see people differently. My pastor always says that there should only be one identity through which we view others: their spiritual identity. This means that we delineate between people based on whether they know Jesus or not. Race, gender, height, weight, none of that matters; the way we respond to people should be based first on whether they have or have not heard the Gospel message.
As Christians we all recognize that sharing the Gospel is a command and not an option, yet it is often easier said than done. Christmas presents a unique opportunity for believers to reveal to friends and family the true reason why we celebrate this day. It provides the perfect forum for a pre-meal prayer or an intimate conversation with a distanced cousin; it’s as if God purposely commercialized this holiday for his own glory and we as believers are the ambassadors chosen to lead others into that glory. Be aware of these moments and others around you! Having this in mind, Christmas is truly a joyous occasion.
I know it’s easy to get caught up with the festivities of the holiday season. Traditions run strong in every culture and a heavy emphasis is placed on family time and recuperating from the business of this past year. But this is undoubtedly a season for Christ-centered fellowship. A time where buddies, extended family, new faces and old gather for intimate conversations and catching up should also be reason to point others towards Christ. Remember what this fellowship circulates around. Remember the reason for gathering. Cherish this time and be conscious to give others the greatest gift ever. Fall into the spirit of the season: glorify our God through worship, evangelism, and fellowship. Let us not lose sight of the real reason we celebrate this blessed holiday.