Summary: This sermon answers the question, "What is Christmas all about?"
Several years ago RBC Ministries, the producers of Our Daily Bread, published a tract titled, “What Is Christmas All About?” I would like to share that with you tonight.
The First World War began in August 1914. It was brutal, bloody, four-year-long war that affected the lives of millions of people. The embattled sides settled into a system of trench warfare based on attrition, where the last man standing “won.”
A well-known story is told that on Christmas Day, 1914, a soldier popped his head over the top of his trench and looked across no man’s land. Rather than throw a few hand grenades across the field of death, he instead tossed couple of tins of corned beef into his enemy’s trench, knowing that both sides of the war lacked most of life’s basic essentials and were nearly always hungry. Within a minute or so, a dull thud sounded in the soil next to him. What was it? A hand grenade? No. It was the arrival of a packet of coffee and some candy.
Cautiously, men began to emerge from the relative safety of their mud coffins. Within a short while jokes were being translated from German into English and vice versa, food was pooled together for a Christmas dinner, cards appeared on makeshift tables and, finally, a game of soccer broke out between the two warring armies, amid shouts of delight and good humored rivalry. The day ended with handshakes, smiles, and even prayers for each other.
On December 26, the commanders on both sides outlawed any repetition of this event under pain of death, and the slaughter began in earnest. The ray of hope disappeared, and most of the participants would be dead within a year.
This remarkable episode in military history is a marvelous story of kindness and goodwill in a terrible situation.
But why did this happen, and why on Christmas Day? Does this story tell us all we need to know? Are hope in the midst of darkness and the triumph of the human spirit the sum total of the meaning of Christmas? And today, where does that view of Christmas fit in with presents, war, Christmas trees, terrorism, feasting, depression, old movies, and so on?
This evening I would like to answer the question, “What is Christmas all about?”
I. Different Views
If you were to ask people about the meaning of Christmas, many would sum it up in ways similar to the story above. Christmas is about being kind and caring, about doing good and looking out for each other, and about setting aside our differences for a while.
The Bible, however, describes the meaning of Christmas in an entirely different way. It tells the story of Jesus coming into the world. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born, the event was announced as a time of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” – which sounds like the message of those trenches! So how do the two ideas of peace and goodwill meet, and what relevance, if any, do they have for us today?
II. Broken Relationships