I don’t know about you, but Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. From the decorations and lights to the baking and wrapping, there is just something nostalgic about the anticipation of Christmas. I remember as a small child finding such joy in the many parties and Christmas plays that foreshadowed all that was to come on Christmas mornings.
Yet, still to this day, I find myself often feeling disoriented at the end of all the family traditions and festivities. After the gifts are given, the songs have been sung, and the final family members have all headed home, there seems to be an abrupt conclusion to December’s celebration as we turn our attention to the New Year. In many ways, we can miss the significance of this season and misplace the purpose of all our preparations if we are unable to slow down and intentionally set aside time to celebrate the gift of Christ’s first coming.
The joy of Christmas is far from over in light of the abundance that Christ offers, so let us take time to revel in the reality of Christ’s humanity and reflect on the good news of the Gospel, which begins with the birth of Jesus our Savior.
The Christmastime Season
Did you know, based on the Church calendar, Christmas Day is not the conclusion of the celebration of Christ’s birth but the beginning of a 12-day celebration? Deeply rooted in Christian history, the church year, also known as the liturgical calendar, contains six sacred seasons of spiritual formation throughout the calendar year. Observed by several Christian denominations around the world, the Church calendar provides the body of Christ with specific times of year to reflect on both the grand narrative of the Gospel story and the stories of God’s work through their lives today.
Christmastime, also known as Christmastide, describes the church calendar’s season of celebration for Christ’s first coming. Falling on the heels of the season of Advent, Christmastime is the second of the six observed seasons. Unlike the 25 days of Advent, Christmastime is a season contained within 12-days and historically marked by feasts and celebrations. This season starts on the 25th of December and ends on the 5th of January, the beginning of Epiphany. Within these 12 days, there is an emphasis on giving thanks and a focus on daily celebrating the significance of Christ’s birth.
In light of all 2020 has brought us, both collectively and individually, celebrating this season may look very different for many of us. We may be far from family and friends, but despite the unwanted distance, I hope that no matter where we find ourselves this holiday season, we may take time to intentionally celebrate our Savior.
The Good Gift of Christ
Growing up in a Christian home, I learned at a young age about the hope of Jesus and the gift of His birth in the Christmas story, yet it was not until I was about twelve years old when my perspective truly shifted.
I remember one specific Christmas, anticipating the joy my presents would reveal on Christmas morning only to experience a less-than-satisfying aftermath. The monetary gifts I had received did not live up to my expectation, nor did I see much use for them. But at that moment, as a young girl, I remember my value of Christmas forever-changing. I came to the reality that the earthly gifts I had received were simply a representation of who Christ was to me. These gifts were freely given with love and consideration, regardless of my childish ungratefulness.
Oh, how often we can see this same pattern in the way we view the gift of Christ. We come to Jesus at times questioning His love for us, unsatisfied by how His blessings have been bestowed on us. Yet, when we pause long enough to think about the fulfillment of God’s word through Christ’s life, we are bound to rediscover the abundance of His love for us.
Maybe you have also found yourself disappointed by what you expected to bring you joy in this life, this season, or even this very day. Discouragement has a way of making us feel as though God has indeed forgotten us. And when we become confused and disconnected, we can easily forget the good news of the Gospel and the gifts that Jesus came to offer. So, let us look back to scripture so that we may reorient our souls to the sweet news of our Savior and recapture the wonder of the gift we celebrate this very season.
The Wonder of Jesus’ Birth
In Luke 2:1-7, The birth of Christ is recorded. And then in verses 8 through 12, it says this:
“And shepherds were living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
The angel’s proclamation to the shepherds that day would forever change history. For the words of the angel confirmed the prophecies of Isaiah, fulfilling the promise of God’s sign in the arrival of Immanuel.
The birth of Christ is the greatest news we could be given because it is a standing invitation to experience the love of God. One of the most quoted verses of the Bible says that “for God so loved the world that He gave us His Son, that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Being fully man and fully God, Jesus, our Messiah, Immanuel, God with us, was sent from the Father to be among us, so that He might save us and provide for us eternal life with God. For in the truth of Jesus’ birth lies the fulfillment of God’s promise to be with us and go before us. It is in this confirmation we can trust that what is even now still undone will one day be made complete in the return of Christ. What joy this can bring to even the weariest of souls.
The foundation of the Christmastime celebration is anchored in the good news of Christ’s birth. So the question is this: is Christ’s birth good news for us today? If so, how do we respond to this gift of all-surpassing love? A love that sees us, values us, and gave its very own life for us?
The Pathways to Celebration
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
What beautiful examples of celebration. For both Mary and the shepherds’ responses to Christ’s birth embody a spirit of joyful celebration and provide us with pathways for cultivating the same gratitude and praise in our own lives this season. For Mary, it says she treasured and pondered the experiences surrounding the birth of her baby boy, the Savior of the world. Mary’s celebration was expressed through the silence of meditation and moments of personal reflection. In contrast, the shepherds responded with shouts of praise and thanksgiving as they shared the news of Christ’s birth with those around them.
What would it look like to practice these pathways through this Christmas season? Maybe, celebrating this gift begins with starting your day by being with Jesus- reflecting on the gravity of His grace and the gift of His sacrifice. Or, maybe it is singing songs of praise or writing prayers that recount the promises of God’s faithfulness through Christ’s fulfillment. For in these practices of praise, we can renew our hope and cultivate our gratitude.
So, as we continue to daily celebrate the abundance found in Christ our Savior in this season, I pray we will take time to personally ponder who Jesus is to us and give thanks and praise to God for the gift of his very own Son.