I am not concerned about a so-called 'war' on Christmas. I am not shocked when people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I simply smirk when my atheist or agnostic friends sponsor grandiose Christmas celebrations with their friends and family.
None of these offenses nor a hundred others typically lamented in the Christian world bother me at all because none of them infringes on the reality of Christmas even the tiniest little bit. They are hobby horses of our pop-Christian subculture. They are distractions from the truth of Christmas, even for Christians.
The essence of Christmas is simply this: God is for you.
Yes, you. Not merely for 'the world' in some nebulous, feel-good, pop song sort of way, but personally and individually for you.
The message of the angels to the shepherds that first Christmas night is familiar to all of us:
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. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2.10-11, NKJV)
Read it slowly. Savor it. Relish it. This is the good news.
For 'to you' is born a Savior. Not just for the world. Not just for your pious Aunt Martha nor for saints like Mother Teresa nor for (fill in the blank with the name of someone you think is really 'good') but for you...and your bungled, messed-up, tattered, screwed-up, sinful self.
The third verse of the carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" sums this up very well:
O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
Hear the angels' song, you who are wearied by life and the million details of living. God in Christ is born to you.
In the same way as Christ's body and blood was broken and shed 'for you' at Calvary and now comes to you in the Eucharist, a Savior is born to you. That, dear friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.
Of course this good news is for all of us. Looking to the familiar words of the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end. (Isaiah 9.6-7a, NKJV)
Let us rejoice in this good news together! God has come for you. God has come for us--to redeem us, to rescue us, to give us new life and true hope in the midst of a world that appears to be anything but hope-filled.
The gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the gospel operates. Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? If the voice gives forth this pleasant sound, even if it be in homely phrase, my heart listens with joy, for it is a lovely sound which penetrates the soul. (Martin Luther)
In the midst of the hustle and bustle; in the midst of the lights and the tinsel; in the midst of gift-giving and receiving, let us find joy in the world God has done and is still doing this Christmas.
Photo by Dan Kiefer on Unsplash