What is Christmas, to you? If you are like most people, this is a time off from work or school, an occasion for gathering with friends or family to eat good food and exchange gifts, which may or may not also include church. Yet many are depressed during this holiday season and even those who enjoy it tend to feel let down after it is over.
“For to me, to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21a)
This might seem like a strange verse to use at this time of year, but it epitomizes the heart of what Christmas really is–because at its very core, Christmas is Christ.
You can have the winter holidays without Him–you can have Santa, Rudolph, and snowmen; you can deck the halls, and sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” all you want–but you cannot have Christmas–Christ’s mass–without Christ. You cannot, furthermore, really celebrate it as He would have you celebrate it if you have not first given yourself to Him, because that was the purpose of His coming–to save us from our sins: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:2) He came to give us new life in, through, and because of Him, so that now “…in Him we live and move and have our being…”(Acts 17:28a)
Furthermore, Hebrews tells us, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past [in the Old Testament times] to the fathers by the prophets, has [when Jesus came] in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Hebrews 1:1-3) It frequently seems to us that God simply created the world and left it alone, yet Scripture clearly says that not only did He redeem us from a life of bondage to sin and give us a new life in Him, Christ is also “upholding all things by the word of His power.”
Christmas, like the rest of our lives, cannot be properly celebrated unless Christ becomes our identity–unless He is what we live for and who we are, our all in all–unless I can truly say with the Apostle Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
He must be our everything, both now during the holidays and later once they are over. We must be at His disposal to do whatever it is He places before us whenever He does so. We are to, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) We are to be His messengers: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
But why–why are we to do this? Because Jesus told us to! “Go therefore,” He said, “and make disciples [followers, students] of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19, 20b) Regardless of how we earn our living, this is our mission!
In 1971 John Lennon penned the now famous lyrics:
“So, this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun.”
Whether he intended it to or not, this song reflects the meaninglessness–the emptiness and futility–of the holidays and the passage of time itself, without Christ.
We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced the build up and the excitement of looking forward to the gifts and festivities, and then been let down after the presents are opened and and everyone’s gone home. And that’s what happens when our focus is wrong–when our holidays are anything and everything but Who they ought to be.
Yet, if we live for Christ on a day by day, moment by moment basis, He doesn’t go away after the celebrations are over. To the contrary, when we have Christ, the celebration–the joy and excitement of living for and with Him–doesn’t end. It continues each and every day until we finally close our eyes for good, only to open them some day and be welcomed to His eternal celebration!
Be my all in all; be my everything. Be the reason I open my eyes in the morning and the reason I close them at night. Use me to accomplish Your purposes in this life, and allow me the knowledge that regardless of who I am or what my family situation is, You are my Christmas and You will not be over once the rest of the world has finished their celebrations. Help it really be true for me that “to live is Christ!” Amen.