Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is the meaning of Christmas?

Merry Christmas
Unless you have been living under a rock for your entire life, you have heard the name of Jesus. For my entire life, I have celebrated Christmas Day and enjoyed the many blessings, gifts and love which seem to naturally embrace us at Christmas. We naturally in return, embrace these blessings poured over us and into our lives.  There is a feeling which comes during this time of year which goes far deeper than the beautiful songs played on the radio or the coloured Christmas lights strung across the rows of houses. Sure we enjoy these things along with the hot apple cider and eggnog and all the traditions past down from one generation to the next. Many of us even get lost under the shopping carts and long line-ups, spending money on presents we can’t really afford. Deep down we know that there is no present or gift or any amount of money spent which will satisfy the longing of our hearts. I’ve seen it year after year. The nicely wrapped present garnished with a beautiful bow which probably cost an extra two dollars plus tax, gets ripped off the gift, crumbled up with the paper, thrown into the wood stove and used for fire starter. On to the next present we go.

I don’t mean to trivialize the wondrous generosity poured out from people at Christmas. I merely want to find that true meaning of Christmas again. I want to find and embrace the Spirit of God in the mist of that wave of commercialism. I think in reality, most people long for the warm fireplace and the days of old when families gathered together, enjoyed a nice family dinner and sang songs like: “Silent Night” “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” I don’t think rocking around the Christmas tree half snapped, was the original intent or way of honouring the birth of a King who was born to give us the greatest gift of all, eternal life. I look around and witness the blasphemous behaviour that our modern day society accepts and promotes.  We have employers telling their employees what to speak, “You must say Happy Holiday not Merry Christmas”. Last time I checked, I was not going on a holiday.

For the past 1,700 years, a significant portion of the Western world has celebrated the day of December 25th as the birth of the divine Son of God and Saviour Jesus Christ. We have all seen many images of Jesus lying in a manger surrounded by ox and lamb, with the Virgin Mary, Joseph, angels and three Wise Men looking on in wonder at the luminous infant. These are interpretations.
The account of Christ's birth is not a perfectly arranged set on a stage. Jesus was born in a putrid smelling stable, surrounded by farm animals that didn’t have controlled bowels. “The wise men travelled hundreds of miles to see this special child. It would have been an arduous journey and probably took them a couple of years to get there. When they finally arrived to this divine child, they lavished Him with gifts. Their gifts were not for Mary or Joseph. The gifts were a form of worship to God.
It was a hectic and dangerous time. Mary and Joseph had reason to be frightened. By faith, they trusted God even though they may not have fully understood how God was at work in it all. The time came when Joseph and Mary had to go to Egypt, to protect the child or he would have been bludgeoned with a sword like many other male babies. Matthew 2:13 – Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under.”
The bible does not tell the exact day of Christ’s birth and by most theological accounts it was not on December 25th. Most of us know this fact. Long ago, December 25th was the day chosen to recognize the Saviour’s birth. We can pinpoint Christ’s birth to occur just before the death of King Herod. Some believe, his birth was during a time observed as the winter solstice. The exact day of His birth is not known.  

This day of remembering Christ’s birth became known as Christmas. It had nothing to do with wish lists or asking for the most recent Iphone or video game. It had nothing to do with socks and underwear or fine knit sweaters, television commercials; stockings filled with candy canes or red tag specials; although these things do seem to appease our selfish desires.   The birth of Christ Jesus the King was the fulfillment of a long awaited prophecy which took hundreds of years to happen. His birth was spoken of in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah and also other prophets mentioned in the books of the Old Testament. It was a big event in history, played out exactly how it was prophesied, including the miraculous conception and life of Jesus the Messiah. It was not a surprise.

May we find the original meaning and truth of Christmas, the “reason for the season.” When we seek to find the truth found in Christ Jesus, we will find all we really need. He saved my life when he called my name. He shines His light through the darkest days. He is the perfect gift. Run after Him like a child runs after a kite. In life when we really want something we go after it. We get passionate about the things we want, the people we love. Can you imagine if we ran after a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus with that same kind of love, need, desire and passion? Oh, how much more we would know Him, love Him, hear Him and understand Him. We would learn the depth, the height and the width of His love. It would become personal. The Father God desires to give us this blessing. That is why Jesus was born. The true story of our Saviour didn’t end in a lowly manger. His life continued for thirty three years.  God’s plan unfolded. 
The most important date to recognize is the verified date of  Jesus death on the cross. We know His death was on the Friday during the Passover at a place called Calvary. We even know the exact time of his death. Matthew 27:45 “Now from the sixth hour to the ninth hour (3 o'clock) there was darkness over all the land.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” This is the most important date; the date of our atonement.

Mary stood at the foot of the cross on that Friday and watched as God fulfilled His plan. She watched what the people did to her son. With the love a mother feels toward God and for her child, she watched him suffer. Mary endured the horrible reality of it all, as the people hurled insults, mocked and rejected Him. Her tears soaked the ground beneath her feet as she watched her son, NO!  “GOD’s Son” take his last earthly breath, just after He uttered these words, Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It was God’s way of making atonement for our sinfulness. Prophecy fulfilled. The Father’s gift to us is His Son Jesus. His life for ours.  
Today many people still mock and reject the Father’s perfect gift. Jesus words still echo today, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

As Christmas quickly approaches let each of us take time to reflect about the true meaning of Christmas and ask ourselves, what part does God play in our daily lives, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year? Is this gift that God offers to each of us, something we would like to receive and open and enjoy for the rest of eternity?  
Merry Christmas