What Is the True Spirit of Christmas?

“It’s Christmas!”

I remember this joyful cry from when I was a child. It brings back memories of family life, of excitement and anticipation for the gifts we would receive, and of sumptuous and festive meals. But as the memories flow through time, it brings back sadness as well. It was a sadness that was difficult to define or pinpoint, but was definitely present and quite deeply as well. I remember, as a young man, walking the streets of our city with anticipation, looking for joy and merriment. Yet, it was only to return home empty, sad, feeling like the whole thing was a facade without substance or meaning. Something was sorely missing.

Advent, Christmas

Today, as I stand looking out at the people walking by, I see their faces covered with the same sadness and meaninglessness. Some of them running busy to get the latest things that are supposed to make them happy. Some are visibly hurting, others seemingly aimless. Like me in years past, they chase something they will not find. As I look, my mind is taken back to the way things were just over 2,000 years ago. People were looking for meaning and identity. While they longed for it, they could not find it any more than they were able to catch a handful of wind.

Then, suddenly, the very angels of heaven celebrated with great joy as the true spirit of Christmas was announced to the world. It was not about a festive gathering, or about the gifts the people of Judah would receive from one another, nor was it about sumptuous meals. But it was about one special gift from heaven, a gift that would change all history and every life. It was Christmas!

The joyful message of the heavenly hosts announced the coming of Messiah, but not as the Jews expected. The very Creator of all things, the one who sustains all that there is, came to us and made Himself one of us, so we could connect with Him. He was fully God and fully man, Immanuel — God with us. In Him we received the greatest gift ever: our redemption and a new communion with our Maker.

The meaning of the incarnation is so profound that I suspect it will take a lifetime to grasp its depth. By entering into His own creation, the Lord changed it all and forever. He ushered in a time of change that will result in the blossoming of the entire creation in His glory, a glory He clearly stated that He has shared with us. In His humanity we find our meaning as human beings. In His divinity we find the most profound expression of love in all creation. He who made us, He who is pure and perfect came into our world to make Himself sin for us. He did that so that He would drink of the cup of our sinfulness and of God’s wrath in order to offer us a new cup, a cup of communion.

It is in Him that the true spirit of Christmas can be found, not in ourselves. It is in His willingness to give all of Himself and hold nothing back from us: the ultimate expression of the love that He is. So, while we enjoy our family life, share in the excitement and the anticipation of our children, and fellowship with one another around a table, let’s make sure we don’t lose sight of what this day represents. Let’s make sure we place our Lord and Savior as the centerpiece of our life. After all, without Him there would be no Christmas at all!

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