Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Christmas?

Picture by BARTON DAMER at CreationSwap 

Why Christmas?  That’s a fair question, isn’t it?  Why do we celebrate Christmas at all?  It seems like our culture wants to make it out to be something it isn’t anymore.  It’s not a new phenomenon, of course, but the numbers of those who would find Christmas offensive is rising and the level of animosity against this Christian tradition is stronger than ever.

So naturally, it seems that the culture is going to do whatever it can to take the focus off what Christmas is about.  Hollywood and the media have been on the attack for years.  Other non-Christians are doing what they can to take the focus off God or His Son, Jesus, as well.

Part of that strategy is to integrate other traditions to take the attention off Christ and place it on other seemingly non-invasive or harmless activities.  (Note:  I recognize that some of the traditions such as Christmas trees and presents began with the right purpose and intention.  However, just as with anything good that God gives man, man has a way of perverting God’s gifts to make them sinful in their use.)  These days, workers in stores and businesses are even afraid to say “Merry Christmas,” as to not offend someone.  They want to say something like “Happy Holidays” instead.

With this in mind, why do Christians persist on forcing “Christmas” on others?  Why do they continue to emphasize God or Jesus Christ when they know that it will likely offend someone and cause division and anger?  Wouldn’t it be more Christian-like to back off and let people live and let live and not force their religion down peoples’ throats?  Couldn’t we call Christmas something like “Earth Day?”  Oh wait, there already is that one.

But, let’s back up a minute.  Why should we change the name?  Why change the reason why we celebrate the day?  Why is it important enough for some people, like Christians, to say it matters?

To be fair, this day, this holiday, wasn’t always celebrated.  In fact, it wasn’t until after 400 A.D. that perhaps Christmas gained world-wide acceptance.  The actual day, December 25th, is also a point of contention considering no one knows exactly when Jesus was born.

The reason why the name Christmas is important is for the very reason it is celebrated…the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Obviously, this isn’t a huge revelation.  But that’s because we have forgotten the significance of that event.

Many theologians, philosophers, and educated people have written numerous papers and books on this subject, but the event by which Jesus was born bears huge significance and to complicate it would be a tragedy.  It is the single most important event that actually includes Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
To rank these events regarding Jesus separately would make the others less significant, and that is just not the case.  From the moment Christ put down His crown and humbled Himself and became a man to the day He ascended into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand are all equally important.

So why is Christmas so important?  It’s because without it, mankind would be left without hope.   (This is where Christianity becomes offensive.)  Jesus is, without exception, the One and only True God.  But by becoming man, taking on the form of flesh, Jesus also became fully man.

By being God and man, Jesus is the only One who can truly be our Mediator.  But why the need for a mediator?  Good question.  Without getting too complicated, we sinned.  By sinning against God, we rebelled against God by saying, “We don’t want you, we want something else to take your place.”  Ultimately, that is what sin comes down to.  We can try to deny it, but at the core of who we are we are very selfish and self-centered.  We think we know better than God, and that’s how it began in the Garden of Eden (the very beginning.)

Think about it.  God tells us to love Him with all our hearts.  But what do we do?  We give our hearts to sports, money, career, sex, or other things that we’re passionate about.  We can do the same things with spouses and children.  We give priority to other areas of our lives when God is the sole reason for our existence.

What about loving others?  Are you easily offended when someone cuts you off in traffic?  How about your money?  Do you give sacrificially to help those who are less fortunate?  (I didn’t ask if you give to charity.  To give sacrificially means you give up part of yourself, something that is important to you or something that will make life very difficult for you to help someone who would benefit.)  To truly love your neighbor as yourself requires a lot of selfless giving and living.  But too often we come up with excuses.  We have excuses as to why we shouldn’t tell the truth, or why we can’t be somewhere on time, or how it is we can’t forgive someone for an offense they committed against us.  Sometimes these things, too, mean sacrifice.

The question then is how did Jesus fix this big mess?  The answer lies all the way back in time to a place called Eden.  In those days, God was engaged in a relationship with man that was perfect.  Everything that man did was in regard to living as if unto the Lord.  But somewhere along the line, mankind listened to a lie and gave in to temptation.  Instead of looking to God as the object of our affections, we pursued other interests…ourselves.

God, fortunately, didn’t leave it there.  In that dramatic event, God gave hope that the enemy of man would be defeated by the woman’s offspring.  Even though this prophecy doesn’t give great detail, it foreshadowed an event whereby in future generations many prophets would proclaim:

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

In fulfillment of this, and many other prophecies, God became flesh and was born into the world to live among His creation.  Again, to avoid making this complicated, let’s just make the point that this was necessary.  It was necessary because we needed Jesus to save us from the penalty of our sins.  Jesus came into the world to reconcile us back to Himself.  But how did He do that?

By coming into the world, Jesus’ life showed that God did care about mankind.  He had a plan and He was going to use His own Son, Jesus, to be made a sacrifice so that the penalty for our sins could be paid for.  John 3:16, one of the most recognizable verses even among non-believers, tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The issue today is not whether God loves us or even cares about us.  That much has been settled.  God proved it once and for all by placing His Son up on a cross.  The issue is whether or not we want to receive Jesus as our offering for the propitiation for our sins.  Propitiation is a big word, but what it means is this:

In the general sense, propitiation is the act of appeasing an offended power; to reconcile, to attain friendship or goodwill, attempt to make compatible.

In a spiritual sense, God is the power whom we have offended by our wrong actions and behaviors.  In and of ourselves, we cannot appease him or gain a good standing with him, but Jesus has acted on our behalf to accomplish that as our "propitiation.”

So what did Jesus do for us?  By dying on the cross, He exchanged His righteousness for our sin.  This, however, is a gift.  Not something that was forced on us.  You see, what God wants are people who want to be with Him.  He wants people to know Him, to love Him, to desire Him, and to worship Him.  And that by doing all of this He would receive glory.

The question needs to be asked again.  Why Christmas?  Because God is offering Himself to us through His Son, Jesus.  The fact that Jesus was born by the virgin Mary and brought into this world proves that God loves us.  If He did nothing else, which is utterly untrue, He would have done everything that we ever needed to have hope for a future.

You see, Christmas is important because the day helps remind us of this important and significant fact.  God continually is looking for those who would put their faith and trust in Him.  Christmas is a very specific way to bring to mind what God has done.  If the world takes away Christmas and leaves us with nothing but a holiday, then in a sense the world is removing the only hope that mankind has.

That is why Christians are so adamant about keeping CHRIST in CHRISTmas.  Christians are called to be ambassadors for our Lord Jesus.  They know that people are in a big mess and they want and desire all to know the hope that they have in Jesus.  Because He is the reason that we have hope and He is the reason Christmas is celebrated.

Think of it this way.  If you knew that your mom, dad, brother, sister or loved one were about to board a plane that you knew had a bomb on it, wouldn’t you do everything you could to save them?  You definitely would.  In the same way, Christians know that those who don’t know Jesus are headed toward eternal death, an eternity spent in hell.  Isn’t that reason enough to keep Christmas…Christmas?