by C.S. Elston
By now, most of us have heard that Jesus was more likely born in early fall than on December 25th and that many of the popular customs associated with Christmas actually pre-date the holiday and were probably adopted from winter solstice celebrations by pagan populations that later converted to Christianity. We also know that we’re supposed to be full of “Christmas cheer” for three or four weeks as winter settles in but, instead, find ourselves yelling at each other in parking lots, spending money on things we can’t afford and tackling strangers in the toy aisle at Walmart. Perhaps, this is another argument in favor of social distancing. 2020 aside, what exactly are we celebrating and why are we celebrating it?
When in doubt, take it back to the basics and refuse to get caught up in the minutia. Regardless of when Jesus was born, the miraculous thing is that the Word became flesh. What does that mean and why does it matter? One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, put it this way:
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Let’s look closely at the specifics behind Lewis’ statement. And, to do so, let’s go straight to a modern translation of the original source material. The book of John begins by telling us this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
~ John 1:1-5, English Standard Version
These five verses are packed with life-transforming information. First, they tell us that the Word was both with God and was God from the very beginning of everything. Second, they tell us that the Word is responsible for all of creation. Third, they tell us that the Word contains the life that is the light of humanity which is not overcome by darkness.
From the Garden of Eden to the moment of Jesus’ birth, humanity had proven over and over again that we could not overcome sin on our own. Left to our own devices, we were headed for death. We were headed for eternal darkness. We needed the life that is the light that would not be overcome. The light that is only in the Word. Later in that first chapter of John, God showed us mercy and gave us that light:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
~ John 1:14, English Standard Version
Lewis stated the importance of this event for us with precision:
“The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles
The birth of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in all of human history. God became man. Feel the weight of that statement. The Creator became the Creation. The highest being in existence descended into a world he created perfect because it had since been infected by sin and he knew that the sacrifice he was making was the one and only way to redeem it, to redeem us. We needed . . . and still . . . We need Jesus!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
~ John 3:16-17, English Standard Version
Our good friend, Lewis, put it this way:
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him . . . “
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles
Praise his name! Fake tree, real tree, no tree . . . Who cares? All that really matters is that the miracle of Christmas is absolutely worth celebrating. The God of all creation loves us so much that he came down in order to take us back up with him, where he always intended us to be! And, even in a crowded shopping mall parking lot, the toy aisle at Walmart or, since it is 2020, surfing Amazon from your couch, the miracle and the meaning of Christmas should absolutely fill your heart with joy. It sure does mine.
And, it is with that joyous heart that I wish you all a very merry Christmas!