I wrote this to be submitted for this week’s Spiritual Thoughts Column for the Nickel Belt News, a weekly newspaper that is distributed across northern Manitoba. Whether or not it will actually be published will be seen on Friday. Tell me what you think…
Like many in my generation, I grew watching too much television. And every December I would watch hours after hours of Christmas movies. Old habits die hard. Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have spent many of our evenings watching Christmas movies and specials. Most of them are about Santa. You know the plot. Santa messes up big time. Christmas will have to be cancelled until someone else, such as Ernest, steps in and “saves Christmas.” You would think that as many close calls as Santa has had, someone would look into hiring a new Santa who knows what he is doing. In spite of the cheesiness, most of these movies are entertaining, but at some point they all reinforce the same value: Christmas is not about getting presents, its about family, peace, and giving.
Those things are all good, but none of them encompass the meaning of Christmas. We should cherish our family all year round. We should seek peace 365 days a year. We should give to the less fortunate every chance we get. In simple terms, the meaning of Christmas rests in the birth of Christ. In slightly more complex terms, Christmas is about the incarnation of the Son of God. Incarnation means “in the flesh.” Christians believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human and that, in the birth of Jesus, God became flesh. The “how” to this concept is something that a thousand theologians could not fully explain, but the “why” is simple. God became man in order to provide us, sinful human beings, access to a holy God. Jesus Christ came to be an example of how to live, the mediator between God and man, and ultimately to take upon himself the penalty for human sin. As the early church father Athanasius put it, “The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might become sons of God.”
In Colossians, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ came to live and die in order “to reconcile to himself all things.” Christmas is the day that we celebrate that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” so that we would have the chance to see his glory and to respond in service and in love. Why? Because we have been reconciled to our Creator. That is why we sing and celebrate at Christmas. In the midst of giving and receiving presents and spending time with family, remember that those things are temporal. Take time this Christmas to celebrate the eternal: the coming of God in the flesh to reconcile us to Him, our creator and our saviour.