There are two Christmases, and one is greater than the other.
Almost everyone celebrates Christmas in this country; from the Christians to the atheists. Christmas, as it exists today, does not demand faith in a savior. It is simply a time of giving and cheer. It’s a time to sing the same songs and watch the same movies and eat the same foods. In America, Christmas is a national holiday more than it is a religious one. So when we speak about it, we should distinguish between the two.
I keep hearing how Christmas was stolen from some ancient pagan festival. This is true. The end of December marks the time when the days begin to grow longer. It is the beginning of nature’s rebirth. This occasion was celebrated with much feasting and gift giving. At some point in history, Christians adopted this date as the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. I don’t know why. They probably had a good reason. But it’s important to recognize that Christmas, in its festive form, has its origins with the pagans. No one knows exactly when Jesus was born. Scholars are confident that it was not during winter. It’s just an arbitrary date to celebrate something that is true every day.
Secular Christmas has many admirable qualities. It encourages peace and charity. The peace it preaches is between men. The charity it preaches is benevolent giving to the needy. These are both good things, and secular Christmas has a lot to be proud of. It brings families together in celebration of themselves. It brings joy to people, and especially children, with the exchanging of gifts. It adds warmth to a dark cold winter. But secular Christmas, even with all of its wonderful qualities, can’t rise any higher than humanity. It can’t point to anything greater than the human spirit.
Christmas, in its true form, points to something far greater than the human spirit. It points to Almighty God, who took on weak and finite flesh for the sake of redeeming the world He loved. The real Christmas is not about how good we can be, but about how good God is.
For many, Christmas is about celebrating family. But what about those who have no family, or who suffer the pains of having a broken one? True Christmas celebrates the reconciliation of God and His children. True Christmas reminds the world that through faith in Jesus Christ, all people can call God, Father. And even the most damaged relationships can find healing from the One who cured the blind and raised the dead.
For many, Christmas is about spreading peace on earth. But how can those without true peace in their hearts ever hope to spread it? True Christmas celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace. The One who knew the sorry and wretched state of our hearts more than anyone, chose to be born into poverty so that He could mature as a man and sacrifice His life in order to pay for the sins of His people. The reality of sin is separation from God, and Jesus Christ shed His blood to free us from the guilty bondage of sin, which makes it possible to have peace in our hearts. Once we have peace, we can give it to our brothers and sisters.
Charity can mean benevolent giving, or it can mean unconditional love. Giving to the poor and hungry is a good and right practice. But what are you giving them? Are you giving them food and money? These are both needed in this world, but what happens tomorrow when the food runs out and the money disappears? Is this all we can give them? The Christmas centered on Christ celebrates the greatest gift of love the world has ever known. You see, everyone in this world is needy. We all need to be physically sustained. But we also need to be loved. A heart open to God’s unconditional love will overflow and fill the cups of the needy. True charity is able to satisfy the deepest hunger pangs of the most famished spirit. Charity began at Christmas.
This year, as you celebrate Christmas in your own way, I want you to consider which Christmas you are celebrating. Is your Christmas praising the glory of the human spirit, or is it praising the glory of a God who loves us more than we even dare to imagine?
Many gifts are given at Christmas. Which have you received?