Every year, people (especially Christians) are faced with the “Charlie Brown Syndrome” (Yes, I just made that up). What is this season all about that fills our stores and shopping malls with advertisements from Thanksgiving till the New Year? Some people hate the Christmas season because of what our culture has made of it, and so they treat it like any other time.
Sadly, this problem has fallen upon the church because most people already celebrate the holidays without God. Baby Jesus is someone we sentimentally view each year at a nativity scene. Even celebrating with family can be a way to push Christ out of the way. When Christmas is about us, then it is irredeemable. But when we let the God of glory alter our lives by his life, then it is something worthy of our love and attention.
Christmas reveals that God is at work.
Christmas disrupts the normal pattern of life for a good reason. It shows us that we are not the center of the universe but that God is. What he is doing for the redemption of the universe has entered our world of sin and death. God unveils what is most true about reality on holidays.
Christmas speaks of the transcendent, majestic God becoming human and living among us—that “God was pleased as man with man to dwell.” Christmas reveals the incarnate Son of God as the hope and light of mankind (Luke 2:1–32)! “God is now with man abiding,” as the Christmas carol declares.
Christmas reveals that God is continually with us.
God created the world for this purpose of dwelling in our midst. He created people in his own image for such intimate fellowship. Even after the fall, Adam and Eve were given a surprising announcement: Christmas was coming (Gen. 3:15)! With Jesus, the promise of God being with us, Immanuel, is fulfilled (Matt. 1:1–25)! The only thing that could break the centuries-long struggle against sin and death entered the world—God himself as man.
God’s eternal Son took upon the form of a servant. He became like us down to the dirty diaper, assuming a true human nature with all its infirmities under sin (Rom. 8:3; John 1:1–ff.). He was miraculously conceived in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was necessary that Jesus should take upon himself the exact humanity of man to save us (Heb. 4:14–16).
Christmas can be redeemed.
Part of the problem of the season is that we are choosing too many things for ourselves and our families. When our lives revolve around us and our choices, there is little hope for something new or greater to happen. Christmas disrupts our normal, self-centered lives to declare that God in Jesus Christ is the center of everything. His life is what we must revolve around and be changed by, so that the drowsiness of instant gratification and constant buzz can be swept from our eyes every December 25th.
God is working even when we do not see it or feel it, very much like he did that first Christmas by sending his Son in weakness to serve mankind. And yet, Christmas is a time for the church in her services, songs, and worship to amplify God’s voice and joyfully proclaim “Good tidings of great joy that will be to all people!” After all, that is what the church uniquely does above all other institutions in this world.
When Christmas is God’s, then this holiday is still worth celebrating before the world. We are given such days as a gift so we might cast aside the sorrows of life for a time and re-embrace the joy of the Lord as our strength. This season provides us with the means of praising God, giving thanks, and speaking of his joyous entrance into the world, to start a new year right!
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
(“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”)
In our pluralistic world, holding to the Christian faith often results in various sorts of clashes and collisions with our neighbors.