Christmas: It’s personal
With the economy heading south, unemployment heading north and energy bills heading for the sky, the finances of most ordinary families are taking a hit. Money is tight and spending this year will certainly be down. For many, in the words of the song, ‘It’s going to be a cold, cold Christmas’. But wait a moment …
Think back to the highlights of Christmases past and try to recall the best bits. What comes to mind? Most likely it’s not the presents, the parties or the purchases. Most likely it’s family, friends and special personal moments.
If our best memories are about those who shared Christmas with us, isn’t the credit crunch irrelevant? Whatever Christmas 2008 may hold for us, it is the gift of ourselves to those around us that will make it memorable.
It will be the family gathering, the thoughtfulness and the personal touch that will make the day special. Christmas is not about things. It is about people and personal relationships; about goodwill between family, friends and neighbours. These are things that money cannot buy and that last longer than the most expensive gifts.
So Christmas is personal, and that’s what the Bible says too. Christmas can and should be a time of peace and goodwill among men because it celebrates the goodwill of God – in sending his Son Jesus Christ to make peace between himself and sinners like ourselves.
Forget the gifts for a moment, the gold, the frankincense and myrrh. At its very heart, the incarnation of Jesus Christ is simply about relationships. And specially about our personal relationship with God.
It’s people who make Christmas special on a human level. The gifts are just tokens of our love and regard. The same is true of the very first Christmas. Jesus Christ came to make friends of his enemies by reconciling sinners to a holy God.
For many, that was also a time of economic hardship. Christ was born in poverty and in an animal shed. But what mattered was not the star-rating of the accommodation. What mattered was that God came. Personally.
Today, we spend huge sums of money trying to make children happy and show friends how much we care.
Yet most of us have an aunt or grandmother who can remember when Christmas meant little more than an apple, an orange and a toy (if they were lucky).
Of course, times have changed and with them our expectations. Yet, think back. Is it expensive presents that constitute your best Christmas memories, or is it the personal touch, the thoughtful action? And this should help us understand what Christmas is all about.
When Jesus came into the world it was God’s way of demonstrating his love and care. The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’. Certainly, God’s gift to mankind was infinitely valuable, but not in material terms. It was personal, costly and sacrificial. God gave himself that we might have eternal life!
A gift prepared
This divine gift was neither purchased on impulse nor given casually. Before the world began, God the Father planned to send his Son at the appointed time. This was a sacrifice of love, a carefully thought out provision to recover fallen man from his state of sin and separation.
Nor is the gift of Jesus Christ to be received casually or discarded carelessly. If we fail to recognise the value of God’s personal sacrifice for us, are we not blind and selfish? Can we teach our children to be grateful for kindness shown if we ourselves despise the greatest gift of all?
The incarnation of Jesus Christ was both a demonstration of God’s glory and the necessary precursor of his peace – the peace between God and man that Christ secured by his sacrificial death at Calvary. It tells of reconciliation between an offended God and rebellious people. It points to grace and mercy offered in the goodwill and sovereign purpose of a loving God.
We can receive no greater gifts than the joy of knowing God, the assurance of heaven and the peace of sins forgiven. Like all true gifts, these are not benefits obtained by our labours. They are freely given in love and not without sacrifice.
No one but God could afford them and he willingly paid the price – that he might bestow them on all who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ.