Luke 2:10 (NKJV) 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.
The Christmas season is the most important time of the year for many in the world today. It is not important because of the religious significance of the holiday. If anything, the religion of Christmas gets in the way of the real impact of the season for many. Christmas is important because stores and other businesses may lose money all year but if they do well at Christmas, they will prosper. Christmas for many is an economic holiday.
For those of us who understand what the focus of the Christmas celebration is supposed to be, this is something of a tragedy. In my last post, I spoke of the significance of the gift given at Christmas. In my family, it was the one time that I got whatever I wanted. I continued that when I was the parent and did my best to give the best gift possible to my children. My son preached in our church this week and told our church that he did the same with his children.
I was blessed to hear him say that this practice contributed to the fact that even through some difficult times, the one thing he knew was that he was always loved. Giving the best possible gift at Christmas was not the only thing we did to prove this to him. It was one thing we did. I believe the gift given by our Heavenly Father at Christmas is one thing that we can look to as proof of the Father’s love for his children.
I believe it is important to understand what these gifts represent. What is the gift the Father gave to his children in the event celebrated at Christmas? It was first and foremost a gift of himself. He came to the earth on that day. He became what we are. He entered into our reality in a way that is hard to imagine. Look at this verse in Philippians.
Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT) 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,
We focus on the baby in the manger at Christmas. Indeed, he was born as a baby. This is important so that we understand that he made himself human in every way. Every way that is but one. This baby was born without the sin nature that came upon all people because of the fall of man. It was not just a babe that was given at Christmas. The gift was the Father himself in human form who would grow up to be the savior of humanity.
I want to point to three other aspects of this gift that the world has tried to co-opt with little success. In their attempt to keep some of the significance of why we celebrate December 25, the world has emphasized three ideas that are a part of the real celebration. Those things are joy, peace and love. We sing songs of joy. Some even include the joy surrounding the birth of the baby in Bethlehem. Somehow, I believe that they miss the point.
The “holiday” season is a time when people speak of peace on earth. Yet there is no peace. In truth, the holidays are one of the most stress-filled times of the year. Of course, the love of friends and family has become one of the focuses of the season. Yet even in this, we often feel pressed by the obligations of this “love” and unable to enjoy the love itself.
I believe that if we want to partake of these three wonderful holiday gifts we must understand them in the context of the true gift. We have joy, peace and love because of what God gave at Christmas. Natural joy, peace and love are severely limited. The joy, peace and love of Christmas are not natural at all. They are parts of the Father’s nature that he made available to us by the gift of himself. Only in receiving that gift can we understand the other three.
Let us begin with joy. The angels told the shepherds that the news they brought was news of great joy. It is interesting that Christmas has become a time when we focus on pleasure and happiness instead of joy. We get pleasure from both giving and receiving gifts. The gifts and the process have the ability to make us happy. We have parties that have nothing to do with the Father’s gift and everything to do with pleasure. It seems that the “Christmas party” often becomes an excuse for behavior we would not engage in at any other time of year. None of this has anything to do with the joy of which the angels spoke.
Happiness and pleasure are desirable things in a person’s life. Everyone wants to be happy and pleasure is the channel that brings happiness to us. However, pleasure and happiness are fragile things. They are dependent upon outward things. We are happy when we have good things. Pleasure comes when we are doing things we like to do. When we do not have good things in life and when we must do things we do not like, happiness and pleasure flee like birds. The joy spoken of in the bible is different. The joy of Christmas is the joy of the bible.
Bible joy is not an emotion alone. Bible joy is an inward sense of wellbeing based in the knowledge that God loves us. According to Holman’s Bible Dictionary, joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts.
The joy we can feel at Christmas has nothing to do with what we give or receive. It is not dependent upon the getting together of friends and family. It is not even dependent on our physical circumstances. Christmas joy can only be understood and released in our lives if we understand the true gift of Christmas. I have joy because God reached down and came to me when I needed him most.
When I do not have all that I want in life, I remember that God loved me to the degree that he came to earth to rescue me. When I receive the gift of salvation, I receive a joy that is deeper than anything life can give or take away. My joy is centered in the fact that I have relationship with God the Father. The joy of Christmas comes from remembering that this relationship was made possible by the birth of a baby who would become a man, who would become my savior.
As you go about your holiday business, enjoy the season. Derive pleasure from the giving and receiving of Gifts. Enjoy the time spent with friends and family. However, remember that you have access to something much deeper than these temporary pleasures. Christmas made salvation possible. Salvation makes true bible joy available to us.
As you celebrate Christmas, remember to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice at the real gift of Christmas. As a Christian, this is one of the greatest gifts you have in your life. The joy of the Lord is your strength. This joy is also the greatest gift you have to give.
There are those around you who do not know joy. They may have momentary happiness, but joy is far from them. You can make it available to them by telling them that the baby born at Christmas became the savior of the world. Find someone you can give that gift to before the season is over.
If you are the one who has never received the salvation joy made available by Christmas, you can receive forgiveness and a new life by accepting Jesus as your personal savior and Lord. Just say, “Jesus, I don’t understand all of this, but I choose to receive you as my savior. Make this Christmas different. I accept that you died for me. I give you my life. Help me live for you.” I pray you find someone who can explain this to you in a more personal way. Have a joyful Christmas!