Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas....

I wanted to take a moment to put up some thoughts on Christmas. I know it's a bit early, but I hope it blesses you as you go into this time of the year.

There is no doubt that some of what we now refer to as Christmas traditions can be traced back, in some form, to pagan cultures and celebrations. However, some of the most popular and beloved Christmas symbols are entirely Christian, and were never part of any pagan religion anywhere, the Christmas Tree and gift giving are some of these. At the same time, some Christmas traditions undoubtedly do have their origins in the pagan past. What is important are not the origins of traditions, but what they mean to us today as believers in the Son of God.

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. Those who regard one day as special do so to the Lord.
(Romans 14:5-6 TNIV)

If you are fully convinced that you cannot, in good conscience, observe a particular Christmas tradition, do not observe it. If you are fully convinced that a particular tradition is too steeped in paganism to honor God in any way, by all means forsake that tradition. At the same time, if you are fully convinced that you can honor and worship God through a particular tradition, honor and worship God

To me personally, Christmas is not about the birth of the baby. (It's not about buying gifts or spending time with your family either.) It’s about what that baby grew up to become, how He decided to live His life, and the choices and the sacrifice He made in the end. To me, Christmas all points to the Calvary, the redeeming power of the Messiah. It’s about salvation. The true meaning of Christmas is love. God loved humanity and provided a way—the only Way—for us to spend eternity with Him. He gave His only Son to take our punishment for our sins. He paid the price in full, and we are free from condemnation when we accept that free gift of love. It brings to mind the miracle of new birth He created in us when He came into our hearts, saved us from our sins, and made us children of God. It is this amazing truth that enables us to say with the angels, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
(Luke 2:14 TNIV)

Why do some celebrate Christmas each year? Out of gratitude for what Christ did for us, they remember His birth by giving each other gifts, worshipping Him, and being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate. The true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love. And you know what? Me, personally, I think that’s the best gift anybody could ever give you. There is still the opportunity for thousands of people who wouldn’t go to church any other time of the year to go on Christmas day and hear the gospel of Christ.

The Lord is grieved when Christians look down upon one another for either celebrating or not celebrating Christmas. This is spiritual pride. When we feel that somehow we have achieved a higher plain of spirituality by doing or not doing something about which the Bible is silent, we misuse our freedom in Christ, create divisions within His body, and thereby dishonor the Lord.

The gospel, is the real message that people should celebrate and give thanks for during Christmas time, despite our various differences.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Blessings,

Matt