Another Christmas, some of us have had more than others. There is hustle and bustle happening all around us, chestnuts roasting on the open fire and Christmas lights illuminating the dark nights. Does it feel like Christmas to you? Now we all know that Christmas celebrations as we know them have their roots in pagan festivals and practices. There is certainly no mention of Christmas in the bible and we don’t see anyone celebrating the birth of Christ in the church until around 350 AD. Almost every part of what we do at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, which is why it is so easy for unchurched people to enjoy the festivities. It is has become time off, a time of spending and economic growth. They have replaced ‘Merry Christmas’ with ‘Happy Holidays’, removing even the hint of Jesus from world holiday. So why do we celebrate Christmas along with everyone else and include ourselves in what everyone else is doing? Why do you celebrate? This morning I want to speak about the significance of the birth of Christ and why I believe we should celebrate.
1. There is significance in gifts
Imagine you were Mary and Joseph. What a strange set of circumstances to find yourself in before marriage. They were from Nazareth, but a census is being done which means travelling back to the city of your ancestors, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the city of David (Micah 5:2). They would find nothing but a stable to rest and have the child. This was no way to begin a life together and certainly not proper surroundings to have a child, yet here they were in a barn with animals. There were no presents, no bows and no pretty decorations to be found, but a gift was being given that was easy to find. You see the Messiah was being born and he would have been the only child that night in a feeding trough. The Saviour had come at last, what a treasure the shepherds found that night.
Gifts, as I have come to understand, are generally given out of love for an individual. Some give gifts to appease, some give gifts out of shame or guilt, but the only gifts that mean something are those given out of love. As Jesus breathed air for the first time in His existence, he brought to life prophecies and promises of the utmost importance. God loved us so much that Christ came to save us. There was nothing that we needed more and truly there is no gift that has meant more to those who know Him. Gifts, although not reserved for Christmas, given out of love can be a wonderful thing.
2. There is need for family
Mary and Joseph would have been having a very difficult time with their respective families at this point in their relationship. They were promised to each other for marriage, but she’s pregnant already. Now while we’re very happy to accept what was going on, I doubt that their families were. Even Joseph struggled until an angel visited him. What is amazing about what happens is that almost immediately after Jesus’ birth people are attracted to where He was. A new definition of family was being born through Jesus, which we now know as the church. Christ’s birth brought unlikely people together and united them in worship.
We live in a day and age where the definition of family is so watered down and so often poorly presented that people have no sense of family. People are looking for places that are safe, accepted, loved and made to belong; all things every family should have. Gathering together with family and Church family can be a very beneficial thing to do. Inviting people around ensures that there aren’t people being left out of the wonderful family unity that is created there. Let’s not be selfish with our celebrations, invite people around and include them in what we do here on a weekly basis. This is a great thing, but again, it’s not reserved for Christmas.
3. There is great value in remembering
The moment of the birth of Christ was and is still one of the most significant things that have ever happened in history. God himself in human form, initiating the plan of redemption spoken of in Genesis. The one who would crush the serpent’s head was now among us. This would be a day that all of history would never forget, whether you are Christian or not. Mary and Joseph were parents and all of heaven waited to see how humanity would react of God’s son. It’s as though God removed anything that would have been considered special as to not take away from the miracle that had happened. We are here today because of this great event.
Remembering the birth of Christ, regardless of what day he was actually born, is very important. Parents need to pass on the story with a sense of awe and wonder at what was happening in that stable all those years ago. There was nothing fancy about it, but Emmanuel had arrived. Time needs to be taken to be grateful, time needs to be taken to restore the meaning of why we remember. It goes so far beyond presents, holidays and food; prophecy of the Messiah was being fulfilled. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)” Time needs to be spent remembering so that Christmas always maintains its true meaning; a celebration of our Savior being born.
Even though many of the things we do were things taken from pagan festivals some of them have meaning even from a biblical perspective like giving and family celebration. The trees, stockings, Saint Nick, December 25th and other things have been added along the way and have become what many see as the focus of Christmas. If you look back in history those elements have always been a part of non-Christian celebration, like the solstice festivals where they decorated trees. We cannot really say Christmas is Christian because those things are not Biblical. We can say that Jesus is worth celebrating and we, as people who know Him, will make a time to rejoice in His arrival and great plan of salvation. I would challenge you to make Christmas about Jesus this year and remember, this worship is not reserved for December 25th; we can do it all year round.