The Christmas Story
Enjoy The Trappings But Remember The Reason For The Season
Sometimes, with all the activities and bustle of the season the meaning of Christmas can get lost in the shuffle. Cards saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" are always welcomed because they affirm associations, family and friendships but they seldom do more than make a casual reference to what Christmas is about.
My objective in this article is not to speak ill of Santa and the decorations and festivities associated with modern secular Christmas celebrations. We live in a highly secularized culture but Christmas is, at its heart, a Christian celebration. Non-Christians, agnostics and even atheists can enjoy the holiday season for all the festivities and secular trappings that have been added to it but, in so doing they are piggy-backing on a Christian holiday. In this article I merely want to remind us all of the theological foundation of Christmas.
All images are mine unless otherwise specified.
Christmas Didn't Start In a Manger
We all know about baby Jesus and the manger and this is a good starting place. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ but who was this baby? Jesus didn't begin life as a baby; he is the eternal God and, as such, has no beginning. In fact, in the "beginning" he already was and he played an important role in the creation (John 1:1-2). At Bethlehem he merely took on human flesh to begin life as a man. Remember, "they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Mat. 1:23). God put on sandals and walked with us but, as John 1:10 says, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." Ever wonder what it would be like to walk and talk with God - look at Jesus.
Now, why would an eternal transcendent God limit and subject himself to human form? We are getting close to the meaning of Christmas here. In a nutshell, God became man in order to provide a way for mankind to get right with God. If mankind needs to get right with God then how did we get wrong with him?
God created a perfect world (Gen. 1:31) and he created man and woman in his own image (Gen. 1:26-27). Man, being in God's image and therefore unique in all creation, was to reproduce, multiply and have dominion over God's creation. In the beginning, God walked with the first man and woman in close fellowship and entrusted his creation to them. This ended when Adam and Eve willfully went against God's command and partook of the forbidden fruit. Scripture uses the term "sin" to describe the violation of God's commands or will. God created mankind with the ability to choose and our first parents choose to break God's command. In so doing, they broke the close fellowship with their creator and from that time forward, as God warned, they began to die. From the moment that sin entered God's perfect creation, all of creation changed. The evil, death and suffering that are part of the world we live in today were not part of the initial creation. This is sometimes referred to as the "fall" of man and nature and is described, in part, in Genesis 3:17-19.
All of Adam's race (mankind) has inherited his fallen nature and all of us are sinners before God and will suffer death. Since Adam's fall, you could say that man's sin nature is the ultimate STD. According to Romans 3:23 (and many other verses) we are all sinners and the link between sin and death is affirmed in Romans 6:23 and throughout scripture. Hebrews 9:27 puts it this way, "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." So the bad news is that we are living in a fallen world and we all sin because we are all born sinners and death is a consequence of sin.
The Greatest Christmas Gift
This all sounds rather bleak doesn't it. Well, wait a minute. That verse in Romans (6:23) that says "the wages of sin is death" goes on to say that the "gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." This takes us right back to Christmas and that baby in the manger. "For unto you is born this day in the City of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord"(Luke 2:11). That baby in the manger on Christmas was far more than a wise teacher; the baby was God in flesh coming to be mankind's savior.
Since the "wages of sin is death" and "all have sinned" God has provided a savior in Himself. The baby in the manger came to live a sinless life as a man so he could die on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of men. This is described beautifully in Romans 5:17-21. "And just as all people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man (Adam), in the same way they will all be put right with God as the result of the obedience of one man" (Jesus Christ) Romans 5:19. The same God's whose holiness and righteousness requires the ultimate penalty for sin has offered himself to pay that penalty for those who chose to believe in him. God had to become man, at the manger, in order to pay the ultimate price for mankind at the cross. Only a sinless man could pay the price for sinful men and only Jesus met that condition.
This makes John 3:16 a Christmas verse, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life." Jesus (God the Son) was the ultimate Christmas gift to mankind. Wise men brought the Christ child gifts and the tradition of gift giving at Christmas has continued but we should never forget that the baby in the manger was God's gift of a savior to all of us. Remember also that the baby didn't remain in the manger and Christ didn't remain on the cross or the grave. His resurrection is the believer's promise as we trust in a living savior.
A Gift Is Of No Value Until Received
We receive no benefit from a gift unless we take possession of it. What use are Christmas gifts left under the tree? God's gift is no different. Christ paid the penalty for our sin but in order to benefit from it we must receive and accept it. It's a gift of grace so it can't be bought or earned, it must be received by faith. As Ephesians 2:8 puts it, "For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift." We often think something like this. I'm not as good as Mother Teresa but I'm not as bad as Hitler, certainly God will accept me. The problem with this thinking is that the standard isn't who's better than whom. God's standard is perfection. Even Mother Teresa needed a savior. God's standard of perfection is met in a perfect savior rather than our best efforts.
I conclude by emphasizing that Christmas is a celebration of God's gift of Himself as a savior to a guilty and condemned world. We can leave him as a babe in the manger or as an innocent on the cross but He is not our savior until we obey, believe and receive Him. There is no benefit in an unreceived savior. So I wish you a merry and meaningful Christmas in every sense of the word.
Sharing Christmas Thoughts
As I have already indicated, Christmas in our secular culture is not just for Christians; it's for everyone and can be celebrated in many ways. For many it's nothing more than a fun holiday with gift giving and colorful decorations. For Christians it's all that and much more. I hope you enjoy your Christmas season in your own way but I hope you will remember the Christmas Story.
I like to send digital Christmas cards of my own creation. I often include a cut and paste version of this Christmas story with my digi-card so that anyone who wants to can be reminded of the reason for the season. If you send digital Christmas cards or greetings by email and would like to share the Christmas story, feel free to include a link to this Hub Pages article. If you don't send digital Christmas cards and prefer to send hard cards, I've included some samples below for your consideration. Some are mine and some are cards created by other Zazzle artists, all are unique. You can write a link to this article in your hard card if you want to share the Christmas story.
Some Christmas Card Options
Christmas Cards and Gifts on Amazon
My Photography Website
I have a fine art photography website where you can view my diverse photographic interests. I have a gallery dedicated to vintage vehicles and buildings, galleries for landscapes, waterfalls, birds, wildlife, painterly photography and a variety of other specialized subjects. Mount Shasta and various northern California scenes are prominent in many of my galleries. Most of the galleries have background music if you play them as a slideshow. This allows you to kick back and listen to the music as the images flow by. Whether you are looking for some interesting images or looking to purchase some photographic art, I think you will enjoy your visit to Chuck Nelson Photography.
I have applied many of my photographs and digital art to a wide variety of products such as mugs, mouse pads, T-shirts, cards, etc. If you are looking for a one-stop location for unique gifts, be sure to visit my Zazzle website.