As we celebrate the Christmas season, it is important that we look past the trappings the world has heaped upon this time of year to obscure its true significance and remember that it is not about shopping or holiday parties, but about celebrating the birth of Christ and recognizing the significance of God’s great gift of a Savior to rescue a fallen humanity.
Christmas is an exciting time of the year where people tend to be a little more cheerful and a little more polite in the expectation of the day when presents will be exchanged. The Christmas season is also a time of nervousness among many retailers who see the bulk of their yearly sales occur in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Decreased spending from shoppers demoralized by the perpetual economic depression exacerbated by the progressive policies of the Obama administration have these retailers rightly worried that they may be facing their own economic downturn in the form of bankruptcy to start the new year. Christmas can also be a lonely time of depression among those who have lost loved ones or who are facing the season without the companionship of family or a love interest. Sadly, the suicide rate tends to be higher around the holiday season as the pain of loneliness and the perceived hopelessness that accompanies it often overcome the rational survival instinct.
Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, man had struggled to regain the relationship he had when Adam and Eve walked with God. The stain of sin causes man to see through a glass darkly unable to clearly see this relationship with God. Abram heeded God’s calling to leave his homeland in search of a new land where his offspring would be favored by God as His chosen people serving as an example of righteous living to bring others to God. By heeding this call Abram became Abraham the patriarch of the nation of Israel. Over the succeeding generations, Israel continued to lose its way and God continued to nudge them back to the path He had set before them. The Pharisees and Sadducees of the priestly class had turned inward to focus on purity in the mistaken notion that God favored them only as long as this purity was maintained. They had abandoned God’s intention that they serve as a beacon to draw other peoples to God and shunned the Gentiles whom God also loved as part of His creation.
As part of His plan, God sent the Angel Gabriel to visit a humble girl betrothed to be married in the obscure village of Nazareth. Gabriel informed Mary that she had found favor with God and would bear His child which she should name Jesus. Mary humbly obeyed God even though she knew she faced a difficult time unable to explain her pregnancy outside of marriage and leaving those around her to speculate on the worst. As Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem in obedience to Caesar’s command that a census be taken, Mary was close to giving birth to this child conceived immaculately. There, unable to find proper lodgings, Mary gave birth to the Savior Jesus as a star shone brightly over the manger where this miracle occurred. Unable to contain their joy, angels visited the shepherds to bring them good tidings of great joy announcing the birth of Jesus. God had provided man with His greatest gift, and the three wise men honored this occasion of the birth of a new king by presenting the baby Jesus with valuable gifts including gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Before Jesus, man was hopelessly trapped by sin and unable to approach God without sacrificial offerings designed to transfer man’s sin upon animals offered up to God as atonement. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world and willingly offered up Himself for our sins so that we might enjoy a restored relationship with God. God offered His Son Jesus to man through His grace so that we might enjoy a relationship with Him without the barrier of sin keeping us from Him. His birth provided hope to a fallen world through salvation from sin and is truly the greatest gift ever bestowed. We honor this precious gift from God by bestowing gifts on our friends and loved ones during the Christmas season to demonstrate their importance to us and remember the birth of Christ Jesus who provided for our salvation through his death, burial, and resurrection.
The world seeks to ignore the religious underpinnings of Christmas to focus on the worldly aspects of commerce and self-indulgence that tempts us to presume we have no need of God and that all we do is accomplished by us alone. The world would have us banish any mention of Christ by referring to this time as the holidays or the holiday season under the guise of sensitivity. Merchants seeking to avoid the fabricated controversy of continued reference to Christmas that might affect their already uncertain sales due to our crumbling economy succumb to progressive demands they utilize these generic references. Nativity scenes are removed by court order as government seeks to offend only Christians in their service to shield every other group from offense. Gradually, the mention of Christ is removed from the public consciousness in reference to the celebration of His birth as worldly forces seek to eliminate God from existence through their misguided attempts to ignore Him into oblivion.
Ironically, those merchants seeking to avoid controversy manage to stir up even more of it when they cave in to the atheistic forces admonishing them to avoid Christian references. Sales are receding as Americans forget the original meaning of Christmas as the impetus to exchange gifts. No longer able to recognize that exchanging gifts is done to honor the spirit of the three wise men who bestowed gifts on Christ who were honoring God’s gift to man, Americans are increasingly rejecting the crass commercialism of Christmas to focus on family gathered around a holiday table with gifts for the kids who can still appreciate the surprise at receiving something wrapped in pretty paper with a decorative bow. It is a slow process, but one which is occurring nonetheless. It would be far more beneficial for merchants to embrace the Christian underpinnings of Christmas and educate people on the importance and significance of gift giving to stimulate increased sales.
As we Americans gather to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, it is incumbent upon us to reflect upon the greatest gift ever bestowed as we remember God’s gift of His Son through grace to atone for our sins and provide for our salvation in a fallen world lost to sin. Christmas is not about gifts or food or parties, but about honoring the birth of our Savior and giving thanks to God for providing for our salvation through the precious gift of His Son. This is the only gift that truly matters.