I love Christmas more and more each year; not because I receive better gifts and not because I am more intentional and deliberate about the gifts I give, but because I am finally figuring out how to celebrate Christmas.
When I was a young boy I made sure I was in bed early on Christmas Eve, so I would not hinder the “jolly gift bringer” in his work of rewarding me for being nice. As I grew, I began to find joy in surprising my family and friends with the perfect gift. When Melissa and I married and began to share Christmas with our wee little ones whose eyes danced with the lights, I thought, “Yep, Christmas is about grateful receiving, joyful giving, and a genuine enjoyment of family and friends.”
Finally, one year while reading the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Matthew 1:21, a saying I had written off as cliché’ ran through my mind and for the first time became real to me; “the reason for the season.”
“Matthew 1:21 (ESV) 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
I don’t know how many times in my life I had heard, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and thought “can’t we come up with a better Christian Christmas slogan than that?” But, at that moment those words became etched into my soul. No matter how much I wanted to restate this overused phrase (or so I thought of it then), I could not. No other phrase would serve me as a permanent guardrail in keeping me from running off the road into the ditch of forgetfulness.
The reason for this season of celebration is, always has been, and will be forevermore, that Jesus came to save his people from their sins. God became a man; he became the savior of sinners so these sinners could by faith become the children of God and inherit eternal blessings all for the glory of God.
Wow! It is no wonder we want to prepare a feast for Christmas. We have something to celebrate! It is good and right to give and receive gifts as our hearts overflow with thanksgiving and joy at this glorious proclamation. We can begin to understand why someone might become so excited about this CHRIST-mas truth that they give an exorbitant number of gifts while at the same time content with receiving none. That’s how the “Christ-time” spirit can affect us. We can be overwhelmed at the receiving of gifts and overjoyed at the giving of gifts.
So, enjoy both the giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas, but remember that all our celebrating flows from the simple truth, Jesus was born to save.
Remind us Lord of life and grace
How once, to save our fallen race,
You put our human vesture (clothing) on
And came to us as Mary’s son.
Today, as year by year its light
Brings to our world a promise bright
One precious truth outshines the sun:
Salvation comes from You alone.
(translated from a 6th century Latin hymn)
Chaplain James Chavis