Saturday, November 30, 2013

The True Meaning Of Christmas

Christmastime is here. We’re inundated with sales for everything from appliances to Zhu Zhu pets. Between football and holiday specials, there’s not a moment of television air time that’s not taken up with some advertiser persuading you that their store is the place to spend your days and your money.

I found my respite from the holiday materialism on the Hallmark channel. There I found miraculous happenings that center around Christmas. The Scrooge theme is ever-popular, showing up in all sorts of ways. From orphaned children finding homes, to the hardened widow who hasn’t celebrated Christmas since his wife was killed on Christmas Eve – there is no end to the heartwarming, poignant stories telling us about the “true meaning of Christmas.”

It was during one of these warm, fuzzy movies that I started to consider that phrase, “the true meaning of Christmas.” These movies seem to say that the true meaning of Christmas is found in “miracles”: snow on December 25, finding that perfect Mr. Right, that first kiss at midnight under the mistletoe. But is that what Christmas is really all about?

According to Mr. Webster, the definition of Christmas is “the annual commemoration by Christians of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec 25.” If this is true, then we’re not really getting the truth in these movies. Now I’m as sentimental and weepy as the next person, especially around the holidays, and I enjoy almost every Hallmark Christmas movie. But I also value truth. And the truth is, the events of those movies happen all year round, totally apart from any Christmas “miracles”. Soldiers come home to their families, people fall in love, young women get heart transplants, and orphans are cared for the other eleven months of the year. Those events are no less “miraculous” in April than they are during Christmas week, and no less valuable to their recipients. So I echo Charlie Brown’s resounding question: “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”

I’ve always been thankful for Linus, Charlie Brown’s blanket-dragging, thumb-sucking but oh-so-wise friend. He beautifully answers Charlie’s question by quoting from the gospel of Luke. He replies,
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And Lo! The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, ‘tis Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

In his world of materialism and performance, seeking after the perfect tree and trying to put on a meaningful Christmas play, Charlie Brown needed his friend Linus to speak truth into his life. He needed to hear that no matter how poor your tree or sad your performance, no matter how many Christmas cards are in your mailbox or presents under your tree, the true meaning of Christmas will never be found in those things. The true meaning of Christmas is found in Emmanuel, God with us.

Perhaps there is a Charlie Brown in your life who needs you to be Linus. Linus was “prepared to give an answer” for Charlie’s question, and he did it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Peter tells us that we all should be ready to give others the reason for the hope that we have inside of us. That hope we have is Jesus, Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). People need that hope every day of the year, not just at Christmastime. It’s his coming that we celebrate on December 25 each year. Because His lives in us, we celebrate Him the other 364 days of the year as well.

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