“The true meaning of Christmas.” You probably didn’t want to hear that. You may have cringed when you saw the title of this post. At this point in the Christmas season, if you are like me, it is quite possible that you are a bit fed up with talk about the “true meaning” of Christmas. Yeah, we know. Santa Claus isn’t real. Materialism is bad. Blah blah blah. What’s there to be said about Christmas that hasn’t already been said a million times before, that isn’t hackneyed and trite? The message of Christmas is pretty simple, right? “Peace on Earth”? “Goodwill to men”?
Well, yes…and no. Those are, of course, important aspects of the message. The message itself, however – the message of Christmas and of the Gospel – is Jesus.
This is hardly an original observation on my part, but it is nevertheless an important one that is often forgotten. Jesus came to proclaim himself. Jesus did not say, “This is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” He said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6; emphasis added). Jesus did indeed preach the words of God; however, the significance of his message is lost upon us if we fail to bear in mind that he himself is the Word of God – that the message is ultimately not a book or a code of ethics, but the entire tapestry of one man’s life.
If God’s message to the world is Jesus, then Christmas is the introductory act. We often speak of the importance of first impressions. The coming of Jesus into the world was God’s chance to make a good first impression. What do we learn about God from His first impression?
God did not need to choose a birth as the beginning of His message. Presumably, Jesus could have swept into human existence a full-grown adult. God did not need to choose the lowly carpenter Joseph, the lowly maiden Mary, or the lowly village Bethlehem. Jesus did not need to be born far from home, out of sight, in a guest-room. And yet he was born in such a setting; the lowly carpenter and his wife were chosen; and God became Man.
Thus begins the story – humbly. The message is a baby – not a baby Hercules, who strangled a pair of snakes – not a baby Buddha, who proclaimed that he would never again be reborn – no, nothing but an ordinary child.
The question I ask you to consider today is why.