Christmas Day has rolled around again. It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping, traveling, cooking and baking, and all the peripherals of things we do at Christmas time that we forget very important truths. Perhaps we make it to church for Christmas worship, collapsing in the pew grateful for a chance to relax. Then we reflect on the whole Christmas story and remember that as important as family is, as important as all the gift giving is, Christmas revolves around the baby Jesus born in a stable and lain in a manger. This is Christmas: Immanuel; God with us. We smile as we think of the baby Jesus and gain strength to get through the rest of the season.
What if I told you that if your understanding of Christmas stops with the baby in a manger, you haven’t taken things far enough and that you’ve missed the real meaning of Christmas? Aside from calling me a heretic, what would that cause you to do? As followers of Christ we have been conditioned to “keep Christ in Christmas” as we fight the “war on Christmas” and what we forget so often is that we are to take Christ out of Christmas and keep that same witness of love and grace all year long. If all we present to the world is the story of a baby in a manger, we leave out the bulk of the gospel story. Perhaps the author of Hebrews understood the message of Christmas. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)
The true message of Christmas begins with the baby, Immanuel, Jesus. But we must never leave Jesus in the manger and think we’ve shared the message that God has for us. The birth of the baby Jesus was the beginning of the story whose end has not been written. Along the way, though, Jesus provided purification for our sins at the cross. The forgiveness and mercy provided at the cross was designed to bring us into a positive relationship with God. His grace is designed to give us power over sin. As exciting as this part of the gospel story is, we know that even this is not the full story because we know that at some time Jesus will be coming back to establish His kingdom here on earth with His people.
And so I say “Merry Christmas.” Let’s celebrate the joy of a baby born in a manger. Don’t worry about those in the world who miss the meaning of Christmas. When they look at you and say “Happy Holidays,” smile and say, “Thank you, I celebrate Christmas. What holiday do you celebrate?” But once the Christmas season is over, take Christ out of Christmas. Take Him to work with you. Take Him to school with you. Wherever you may go, take Him with you. Show others His love and grace. Don’t be obnoxious talking about Him, but as you practice showing grace to others, they will see the love of Christ in you. In other words, earn the right to tell them about Jesus by showing them the love of Jesus each day. If I can force someone to say “Merry Christmas” without them experiencing the love of Christ, what have they gained. Jesus came because the Christmas story is about God’s love for others; let’s show that love to others all year round.
Oh Lord, we worship You. We worship Your entrance into this world as the Son, born in a manger. We worship Your message of reconciliation, shown on the cross. Let our worship show Your love to others as we work with them each and every day.