Those of you who watch Hallmark Christmas movies raise your hand. I thought so. Okay, you can put them down. We do too. Why are they so popular? Well, they are good clean entertainment with good morals, no bad language or violence, with attractive actors and actresses and beautiful settings in usually quaint rural settings. They always turn out with a happy ending (i.e., except for the jerk of a boyfriend or girlfriend who gets dumped!) Usually (there have been a few exceptions), you can predict how it will turn out and who will end up together within the first ten minutes of the movie. But they are feel-good movies that are very “family friendly.”
There is, however, one key ingredient missing from the storylines. Never is there a mention of the real meaning of Christmas—the coming to earth of our Lord and Savior, the God-man, Jesus Christ. There is instead a focus on the “Christmas spirit” which comes from the “magic” surrounding the season–the music, the festivities, tree decorating, gift giving, parties, baking cookies, usually an ice skating scene, and of course, snowfall on Christmas eve! Quite often there is a “real” Santa Claus involved or an angel on assignment, and sometimes Christmas ornaments with magical powers. Normally the lead character has had a bad experience in a past Christmas, such as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or losing a parent or mate in death and as a result, has lost “the Christmas spirit.” That spirit is revived when they again fall in love with someone and/or find themselves in a little community that goes all out in its Christmas festivities (again, which exclude any mention of why we have Christmas). Occasionally, there is also a reconciliation with a family member with whom there has been a strained relationship.
I’m reminded of the story about a birthday celebration for a young child. The family and friends met at a restaurant to celebrate, but the parents dropped off the child at a baby-sitter on their way to the birthday bash so he wouldn’t be a “bother.” While that sounds ridiculous, I guess much of the world does that at Christmas. We have all kinds of parties and celebrations but we leave out the One whose birthday we are celebrating. Christmas, after all is “Christ’s mass” or “Christ’s birth.” It is our reminder that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). From Gen. 3:15 through the whole Old Testament, God promised to send a Deliverer who would first suffer as a sacrifice for sin and then return later to reign as King and bring “peace on earth.” For several millennia, God prepared the scene for the sending of His Son. All the prophecies given concerning His birth and ministry would need to be fulfilled in every detail. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4,5). One night an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem and said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the promised Deliverer)” (Lk. 2:10,11). The Apostle John, in His version of the “Christmas story,’’ wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:1-3,14).
Although we don’t know exactly what time of year Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem of Judea, December 25th was chosen by Christians as the date to celebrate that earth-shaking event to counteract the pagan Saturnalia and Winter Solstice celebrations that took place during that time and also (possibly) to coincide with the “Festival of Lights” or “Hanukkah,” which celebrates the rededication of the Temple which had been desecrated by the Romans. Unfortunately, Christmas has become for so many just a time off work and a time to get together with family, exchange gifts, make lots of fattening goodies, and attend parties. The One whose birthday it is is being totally left out, even though His coming is recognized every time you write the date. Our history is divided between “B.C.” (Before Christ) and “A.D.” (“the year of our Lord”).
If you want the real “spirit of Christmas,” it comes, not from all the lights, trees, programs, music, family get-togethers, special food, or even from Hallmark movies! It comes from being in awe of the fact that God, the Creator of the universe, loved you enough to come to earth and be born as a man so that He could pay the penalty for your sin and give you eternal life. Speaking of the incarnation (God taking on flesh), Paul writes: “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phi. 2:6-8). To quote from a favorite Christmas movie, “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Christmas is about gift-giving all right. It is about God’s gift of Jesus Christ, God the Son, sent to become our Savior. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (II Cor. 9:15). Have you received God’s love gift to you? If not, why not do so this Christmas season. You will indeed discover the real “spirit of Christmas,” as God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in you. If you have received Christ, share Him with others. He is the “gift that keeps on giving and giving and…”
A joyous and Merry Christmas to you all, and a blessed New Year of serving Him and looking forward to His Return.