Good news everyone, it’s Christmas time! The time of year for presents, lights, music, decorations, fests, stress, shopping, fellowship and presents. Each year many people either loath or get excited for the magical Christmas season. A time of year full of white-haired fat guys, floating deer, The List Of Jericho… I mean Santa’s list, elves deported from Middle Earth, snow that covers all, egg flavored milk (or Bailey’s flavored depending on the day), department store Hunger Games, omnipresent glitter, Red Ryder Air Rifles, the conquest of pumpkin spice by the forces of peppermint, and finally Red Green, no wait a minute I mean the colors red and green.
Each year for a few short weeks (I’m talking to you shopping malls that put out their decorations in October!) the world around us changes from the dull and ordinary to a world full of cheer, colorful lights, and a little extra sparkle in the hearts of people. It’s the time when people happily skip through the malls looking for the latest unexplainably hot toy of the season, like Tickle Me (only after proof of consent) Elmo, Turbo Man, Johnny Switchblade, or even Paw Patrol Ultimate Rescue Hey Look A Squirrel Action Play Set.
For some this is a season of magic, others a blatant form of consumer driven religious sacrilege, and some see this time a year as just a slightly more chaotic and crowded version of normal life. No matter which category you find yourself in I hope that deep down you understand that there is something far more powerful and important that this season represents. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the birth of Santa Clause, or the commencement of Festivus, it is the celebration of the day when God came to town and changed the world as we knew it.
It’s More Than Just A Season
I’m sorry to say that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, I’m afraid Christmas is cancelled sorry again everyone. I kid but what this time of year and the day the early church chose has to do with setting aside one day a year to commemorate the day of our Savior’s birth (won’t get into the debate of them superseding an existing pagan festival here today). I’m not saying we need to change the day we celebrate on but rather I’m pointing out the importance for us to recognize the event which are we celebrate.
Personally, I lean towards Jesus being born in September or October, possible during the Feast of Tabernacles. I believe this because it lines up with what we know from the scriptures, and it explains the reason all of the inns were full and why the shepherds were outside in their pastures at the time. The Feast itself (Leviticus 23:23-24, Deuteronomy 16:13-16, Nehemiah 8:13-18, Zechariah 14:16-19) represents when all of Israel was supposed to come to Jerusalem and live outside its gates for several days in tents (temporary shelters) made out of animal skins until the Day of Atonement when the nations sins were whipped away.
Jesus came into the world wearing the skin (and its legalities) of human kind to be the once and for-all sacrifice which permanently wipes and erases all of our sins away. This also follows the pattern of the three major Jewish Feasts lining up with the life and calling of Jesus. Jesus was born on Tabernacles, killed on Passover along with the sacrificial lamb, and Pentecost which is the feast celebrating the first fruits of the field was when the church was born and filled with the Spirit.
The Christmas Gift of God’s Presence
At this moment I want to focus on the birth of Jesus, which is the most important and mind boggling miracle in all of the Bible. In Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20 we are presented with the circumstances of Jesus’s entry into the world. Here we see angels announcing the coming of God Himself into the world not in power and chariots of fire but through a baby entering the world.
You see what we need to focus on this time of year is not the gifts under our tree but we are to focus on the appearance of God’s presence in this Earth. That is His great Christmas gift to us and not only that it is also our God given solution to deal with the roots of all the problems faced by the world. Jesus didn’t come to bring a heavenly band-aid to cover our surface problems but rather He came to expose and repair the broken foundations of our nature and heart so we can experience an eternal solution for sin, death, rebellion, pride, fear, hatred and injustice.
We are to celebrate this season in commemoration of the day God entered our world. I’m not just talking about God’s presence like when He filled Solomon’s Temple but how His nature and heart entered into the world of mankind. On that day God entered the world through His creation and cried among us. Later He ate among us and as He grew he crawled among us, and then He finally walked among us so we could one day be picked up by Him who ruled from high above us.
Think about it, God didn’t force us to build a great tower to reach Him, He came down to us in a body just like ours so He could relate to us, redeem us, die for us, suffer for us, and be resurrected so He could reign over us as one of us and not an outsider or a distant God. God Himself closed the gap between the fallen and stained created and the Holy Creator. An action taken out of love, goodness and justice in order that our relationship with God would be restored, like embers that had grown cold that suddenly had fuel thrown on them.
Christmas is the time when we celebrate God coming down to us, we celebrate God’s goodness, grace and mercy for providing a way for us to reconnect with Him. He could have sent judgment, or fire or calamity to force our allegiance but that is not His nature. He came in love, power, mercy, holiness and justice to lead us back to Him. Christmas gives us an opportunity to show our gratitude and gratefulness for that mercy. The day the light of the world came and lived among us shining ever so brightly. This is not just good news it is “the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere!” (Luke 2:10 TPT).
This gift is not for a select few but it is available for anyone and anywhere to receive, there is no naughty and nice list which determines who gets to receive this gift. In reality everyone is on the naughty list and it is the great gift of God which moves us to the “nice” list.
The Great Gift of Salvation
This Christmas gift didn’t comprise of just God’s presence among us, that was only the introduction, the greatest gift came in the form of Jesus’s purpose to bring salvation and redemption of sin to us. This was the plan, this was always the plan going all the way back to Eden the plan was for God to come down so He could stomp on the serpent and undo the damage done that day.
We see this call through the name given to the Son of God through the angel, in Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31-33 both Mary and Joseph receive the divine call to call this promised child Jesus. I must remind everyone that this is the English form of the name and the angels spoke a different one. We see that Luke records the name given being the Greek name Iesous, while Matthew records Joseph receiving the name Yeshua (or Y’hoshua).
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son and you are to name him ‘Savior,’ for he is destined to give his life to save his people from their sins.” TPT
Luke 1:31-33 31 You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be supreme and will be known as the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will enthrone him as King on his ancestor David’s throne. 33 He will reign as King of Israel forever, and his reign will have no limit.” TPT
I cover this topic of what Jesus’s original Hebrew name really means in The Secret Name of Jesus Christ, but to make a long story short the name given to Jesus literally means “savior,” or the LORD delivers/is salvation/is my savior. A name to ancient Jews was seen as a window into a person’s life, and especially so when God or an angel provided the name. From the beginning we see that the name we know as Jesus isn’t just a title but the name has a deep and glorious meaning. When we say Jesus is coming in our minds we think “a man named Jesus is coming this way.” While to those in the first century it wasn’t “Jesus is coming” but YHWH our savior and deliverer is coming.” We associate names with letters, but those ancient Hebrews associated names with meanings.
From the beginning then we see that Jesus’s purpose was set, He was Immanuel “God among us” and He was Yeshua “YHWH is salvation,” God’s presence and God’s salvation are fully seen through Jesus. On what we know today as Christmas that salvation and presence came into our world, that revelation alone justifies all of the celebrations we can come up with for this time of year.
What This Season Means To Us Today
Christmas time can be a contentious time even among Christians who disagree about what should and what should not be associated with this season. Some want Santa excommunicated, others want to ban tree decorating, others want all of the spotlight shone on a blond haired blue eyed baby in a store bought crib and others just want to make it to January without going bankrupt.
We need to come to the conclusion that our culture and everything we do to commemorate and celebrate this season only represents the decorations on the tree, while Jesus along with His purpose, nature and entry into this world is the actual tree which everything hangs upon.
I’m not against decorating a tree or giving presents but we have to understand the dividing line between the meaning of Christmas and how we as a culture choose to celebrate that truth. Christians in different cultures have various ways to celebrate Christmas but that does not make them more or less Christian. I have a tree and there’s nothing wrong with that (if I bow down to it that’s a different story) and I also exchange gifts. However, I see those matters as being part of a larger celebration, a fragment of something much larger. When your Christmas season only consists of decorations, presents and food then you are missing out on the larger picture.
Christmas is a time when we remember the miracle that happened and how it forever changed our world. So some will decorate a tree with lights and trinkets, others will put up lights outside of their house, others will have no decorations or cultural expressions at all. Some celebrate the event on December 24 at midnight, or even early January, with the rest celebrating on December 25.
How we celebrate at times is less important than what we are celebrating. I think at times that all of the pomp and circumstance which happens this time of year is a good thing, because it separates this season from all of the others. It is a time of year when for a few weeks everything changes, the music, the lighting, the activities and if done right it is a good thing.
We don’t want the celebration of Jesus’s entry into the world to go unnoticed like the August Civic Holiday in Canada or Presidents Day in the United States. The fact that so much changes this time of year points towards the centrality of Jesus in our world. Even though many people do not worship them they feel the effect of His grand entry into the world for a few weeks every year.
For us as Christians we then have to learn how to balance the event of Christ’s birth with the activities we engage in during this time of year. Because what does this season actually mean, is it about a serial home intruder leaving stolen toys from China under our tree’s, or is it about the greatest gift of all coming into our lives? Again, I’m not saying to abandon gift giving but we must understand that not matter what we give or receive it will never top what God gave us 2,000 years ago. These gifts we give and receive should remind us that no matter what is beneath that wrapping paper it will never compare to what we have already received.
The purpose of Christmas is to remind ourselves of the day everything changed, the day which marked God coming down not to judge us but to give us an opportunity to repent, receive forgiveness and become part of His family once again. Now then when you turn on a light remember the one who is the light of the world, when you open a gift remember the one who gave you the greatest gift, when you meet with family remember the family you have been adopted into and when you burst a button gorging on food remember the one who broke His body like bread to bring you salvation, redemption and life.
Luke 2:10-11 “10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” NKJV
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth
The Greatest Christmas Gift Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.