Understanding Christmas - December 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

 

Christmas is the only Christian holy day that is also a major secular holiday - arguable our society’s biggest. The result is two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people at the same time. Both feeling uncomfortable with the other. Christians notice that the background music in shopping centres is shifting from “Joy to the World” to “Jingle Bells”. The holiday is promoted as a time for family, for giving, and for world peace.

On the other hand, non-Christians can’t help but find that the traditional meaning of Christmas keeps intruding uninvited. It can be irritating to have to answer a child’s question, “What does that mean - ‘born to give them second birth’?

As a Christian I’m glad to share Christmas with all of Australia. My hope is that as we celebrate together there will be more and more opportunities for the true roots of Christmas to become known. The emphasis on light in darkness comes from the Christian belief that the world’s hope comes from outside of it. The giving of gifts is a natural response to Jesus’ stupendous act of self-giving, when he laid aside his glory and was born into the human race. The concern for the needy recalls that the Son of God was born not into a wealthy ruling family but into a poor one. The Lord of the universe identified with the least and the most excluded of the human race.

These are powerful themes but they are also pointed. Jesus comes as light because we are spiritually blind and unable to find our own way. Jesus became mortal and died because we are too morally ruined to be pardoned and other way. Jesus gave himself to us, and so we must give ourselves completely to him. Christmas, like Jesus, is both more wondrous and more threatening than we imagine.
 
Every year our secular country becomes less aware of its own historical roots, many of which are the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Yet once a year at Christmas these basic truths become a bit more accessible to our whole country. At countless gatherings, even where most participants are nonreligious, the essentials of the Christian faith can become visible.
 
As you walk through the shopping centres, attend the carols events and the social functions this Christmas season, quietly pray that the truth of Christmas will break through. Why not take the opportunity as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is piped through the sound system to pray that people will hear the truth of Christmas. Pray that they would ask the question: Who is Jesus? He is “everlasting Lord,” who from “highest heaven” comes down to be the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” Ask the question: what did he come to do? His mission is to see “god and sinners reconciled”. Ask the question: how did he accomplish it? He “lays his glory by,” that we “no more may die.” Ask the question: how can this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that it can be only called “second birth.”
 
To understand Christmas IS to understand basic Christianity, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a trustworthy saying that
deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15 NIV)
 
Steve Jeffrey
 Senior Minister