“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”…for some. For others it is the polar opposite. I can say that Christmas is certainly the most religiously contentious time of the year. Arguments break out surrounding the origin of the season, why December 25th was chosen (should we even celebrate birthdays?), and who really was the babe in the manger. Nevertheless, people celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Christmas for many different reasons.
I like Christmas. It’s the only day I enjoy waking up at 5 am, and pressing clothes and doing uncool, grown up things like wearing ties and suits. Beating my own birthday and summer vacations for the best time of the year, Christmas is simply magical. Three of my favourite things always come together at Christmas – food, friends and family…and basketball – and at the end of the season, when the final ham slices are brutally fought over, I always look back and say “This was the best Christmas ever.”
The bible doesn’t make mention of celebrating birthdays and one of the primary points of persuasion by people against celebrating Christmas is that Jesus never said to celebrate his birthday. I agree. But I also disagree that that should be the rationale for not celebrating his birth. In Luke 2:6-20 there was a big celebration when Jesus was born. An angel appeared to shepherds proclaiming “good news that will cause great joy for all people” (verse 10). Then a great company of angels appeared and started praising God (verse 13). The angels left and the shepherds sought the baby. Finding him, they went back and had their own celebration as well. So if the angels celebrated Jesus’ birth, and the shepherds did as well, why should I not join them? Clearly this child was special.
One of the things that amazes me about Christmas is God’s amazing story telling. I’ve watched the story of Amelia Pond unfold over 2 and a half seasons of Doctor Who and I am thoroughly impressed by the writers’ creativity in knitting the characters and events together. But none of it can compare to the story written in the bible – the greatest story ever told. The crux of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17) and Easter is climax of what God was doing. But without Christmas there would be no Easter.
For thousands of years, since the fall of man in Genesis 3, God foretold the coming of Jesus. In every era of time he dropped hints through words, events and people; building anticipation for the coming Messiah. And after 400 years when “silence fell” (pardon the Doctor Who reference) the Messiah came. In a Steven Moffat-esq fashion which highlights the most excellent pieces of storytelling, God thread himself through the fabric of reality to mend what was broken.
Inasmuch excitement as Christmas creates I am always sobered by the thought of being caught in “the in-between” (of Jesus’ comings). In John 14 and Revelation 22:20 Jesus said that he is coming again, and coming soon. When I think of Jesus’ incarnation at Christmas and why he came – to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) – I am reminded that he will come again. Prophesied events come to pass as the story nears the end – when evil will be defeated, pain ceases and even death vanquished. Christmas brings hope.
“God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy! O tidings of comfort and joy!”