A number of years ago, I read a story in “Our Daily Bread” about a congregation in Baltimore that found the solution to its financial problems right on the church wall. The answer had been hanging there for 25 years! It was a piece of art hanging in the chapel, which someone at last recognized as a very valuable woodblock print by the great artist Albrecht Durer, dated 1493! The work of art showed the angel telling Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. The church folks had seen the picture many times, but had failed to appreciate its value.
Perhaps we too, see the reminders of the event depicted on that woodblock print and yet fail to appreciate the significance of that event. It is hard to miss the reminders of Christmas: the lights, the trees, the cards, the carols, the nativity sets, and yes, even the advertising. But though reminders of Jesus’ birth are right under our noses, we can all too easily forget that Christmas is about Jesus. Yes, Christmas is a time to gather with family. Yes, it is a time to exchange gifts and renew friendships. Yes, it is a time of charity. Yes, it is a time to enjoy holiday cooking, and to enjoy the wonder in children’s eyes as the Christmas tree is lit up. But in enjoying all of these good things, do not forget the greatest thing.
Christmas is, essentially and most importantly, about Jesus. About remembering his birth. About looking back at the greatest gift God has given: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” How ungrateful it would be to ignore the gift of his Son at the very time of year we set aside to remember his coming! Let me recommend three ways to make sure that does not happen in your Christmas:
First, read the Christmas story as a part of your family celebration. The angel’s announcement to Mary is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses 26-38; the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is found in Luke 2:1-20; and the visit of the wise men is found in Matthew 2:1-12. Before opening the presents, or before the Christmas dinner, have your Bible ready and have someone read the story of the event we are celebrating.
Second, come to church at Christmas time. This Sunday, December 17, is our Sunday School Christmas concert, in which the children and young people will be telling the Christmas story in word, in song, and in pageant. Christmas is on a Monday this year – at our church, we will have morning worship on December 24th, and a special Christmas Eve service at 6:00. Others schedule Christmas services differently. Regardless of the day or time, make plans to be in church over the Christmas season, to sing the Christmas carols about the Son of God, and to consider the message from Scripture that Jesus came into the world to offer himself, ultimately, as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross, that we might be saved by repentance and faith in him.
Third, take some quiet time alone to reflect on the Saviour who was born in Bethlehem, and your own relationship to Christ. In fact, that is a message that is essential to consider not just at Christmas, but all year long. A real, lasting, and personal relationship with the Christ of Christmas, who can forgive sin and give peace with God, is the ultimate satisfaction of those who truly understand the significance of Christmas.
Have a Merry Christmas! And remember that Jesus really is the reason for the season.