Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world. People go through a variety of emotions and thoughts around this time, but what does Christmas mean to people?
It’s one of the busiest times of the year as people flock to stores to take advantage of sales and bargains. Many are shopping for family and friends for gifts to give, and shops are open on Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning. People take to the highways and the skies to travel to be with loved ones throughout our nation and the world. Although there are some people who do not celebrate the holiday, due to other practices or lack of interest, people become happier around this time for the most part. There is lots of hustle and bustle about the summer holidays.
One of the more obvious answers is the birth of Jesus Christ or ‘the reason for the season’, for many people. Although not the actual birth date of the Messiah, December 25th is held by millions around the world as a special time in Christianity. People flock to church to partake in communion, services and other festivities this time of year.
And I was wondering, what does Christmas mean to Australians? A survey I saw has shown that:
- 57% of respondents identified themselves as belonging to a religion that celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday.
- 87% of those who are not religious still celebrate Christmas to some extent.
- Of those who belong to another religion, over half (56%) still celebrate Christmas.
So It seems that the top three reasons why people celebrate Christmas are:
- spending quality time with family (87%)
- exchanging gifts/presents (50%) and
- because the children really enjoy it (44%).
There is much hype about this time of year, and our Aussie culture is greatly focused on presents, shopping for others, and the stress which it all brings. Often we forget the truth behind Christmas and miss that it is a time of joyful celebration. Have you stopped in the busy Christmas season to ponder what it really means? What will you be celebrating this year at Christmas?
What Do We Celebrate at Christmas?
But what is being celebrated at Christmas? The angel that brought the news of the birth of Jesus said; ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’ (Luke 2:10-11). Here we see the central reason for celebrating Christmas. That Jesus came to this earth, he was God with us, and through his death and resurrection we can be set free from sin, death and sickness and be in personal relationship with God. Yet is this what people celebrate?
I remember hearing a story about a little girl who climbed out of bed one night and went into her parents’ room. Her dad woke up and said:
- What’s wrong?
- I’m scared.
- There’s nothing to be scared of. Remember, God is looking out for you.
- I know, but right now I need God with skin on.
And that’s what Jesus is—God with skin. He came to earth as a baby.
God with skin on—that’s the relevance of Christmas: God with us. “Word of the father, now in flesh appearing.” This one event fundamentally changed the nature of our relationship with God. Through Jesus, we can learn things about God’s nature that we never had learned before. Jesus reveals to us what God is really like, and definitively shows us God’s love and mercy for us.
Jesus is God’s way of saying, I know what you are going through, because I’ve been a human, too, who experienced all the things it means to be alive. The pain, the grief, the anger, the disappointment, the joy—God knows what all those feel like. He was born like us. He grew up like us. The Word became flesh.