If people were asked what Christmas was about, and they answered honestly, what they might say? In all probability, you wouldn’t be anywhere near alone if your answer included love, presents, family, hope, or peace – worthy sentiments all. And if those were your answers, you would be absolutely right, 100% brilliantly, spectacularly right – go to the top of the class, and get a gold star sort of right.
Christmas is about love – totally, completely and utterly, above everything else, and it’s about love because what we’re remembering underneath the tinsel, trees, and turkey is an historical event that is a mind-blowing, extraordinary demonstration of God’s love for each and every one of us, of you and me, however deserving or undeserving of that love we might be. What we’re remembering beneath it all is that God loves the world, and that at the first Christmas that love appeared in the physical form in the midst of it.
And that’s why Christmas is absolutely about presents, because when it came to expressing that love, God did it by giving – for God so loved the world that he gave! And what did he give? He gave his only son to be born amongst us, to live and grow amongst us, to demonstrate for us how to live, and, ultimately to die for us. So if at the first Christmas God gave his son, perhaps it’s no wonder that it’s also all about family.
But what about the rest of the list – hope, joy, and peace? Just ponder for a moment why he gave him: so that all who believe in him may not perish, but have eternal life. Can you think of a greater hope than that? I certainly can’t. And in the grasping of that hope is to be found more joy and peace that we can ever begin to imagine, which, of course, is why when the angel pitched up with the Shepherds, he told them ‘I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people’, and went on to sing about peace on earth.
So what’s Christmas about? Love, presents, family, hope, joy, peace? You bet! For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all that believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. My prayer is that this Christmas that incredible truth is for each one of us something inescapable, and that it grabs us with a freshness and vitality that leaves us eternally transformed, from glory to glory.
It's going to be a bit different this year, but that central meaning doesn't change. Christmas has always been about light coming into darkness - and we all know we need to hear that at the moment! We may not be able to celebrate it as we have in the past, but celebrate we shall - because this is something too amazing to miss. We'd love you to to join us as we celebrate this year, whether that's online, or in person, but whether or not you manage to, please do remember – God loves you so, so much. Merry Christmas!