---- — Entering a local grocery store a couple of months ago, I was startled and taken back by several large displays near the checkouts and exits. There, nestled in between the bins of fresh Halloween treats, were stacks of boxed Christmas chocolates and stocking stuffers.I caught myself taking a double take to make sure that I was actually seeing what I was seeing. Then I realized it was true: The Christmas season had begun and it wasn’t even October. Sometimes it seems that the gap between Christmas and the rest of the year is getting shorter. This eagerness to get a jump on holiday cheer is purely practical from a retailer’s point of view: Stores typically make more than half of their yearly sales during these few short weeks. Shopping has become a pretty substantial part of the North American Christmas tradition. Yet Christmas is and should be so much more than what we buy. We should never forget the real meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ. At Christmas time we exchange gifts and while it is fun both to give and receive gifts, they are only symbolic of a much greater gift. The gift God gave to the world when he gave His son Jesus Christ. Jesus himself spoke these words in John 3:16,-“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The love of God came down to earth in the form of His son Jesus Christ. That is the greatest gift that anyone can receive. Now that is something to celebrate!It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the business of Christmas. That doesn’t mean we have to lose track of the significance of this time of year, or why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Christmas is still a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and that is why we celebrate this wonderful holiday every year. The angel told the shepherds in Luke 2:10-12 “…Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign to you: You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” What the angel announced to the shepherds and to the world that night 2,000 years ago was that salvation had come to the earth and that God’s redemptive plan was coming to fulfillment with the birth of the savior. Many times, we are guilty of overlooking the reason we celebrate Christmas and getting caught up in the commercial aspect of the holidays when we should never forget the baby in the manger.
It is ironic that the night Jesus was born, there was no room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem at the inn and Jesus was relegated to being born in the stable and laid in the manger. That was how he was welcomed into this world, and now here in 2013 there is still no room for Jesus in our culture and society. We are living in a day and age when people would rather talk about Santa Claus than Jesus Christ. People are more comfortable saying “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. Personally, I am not ashamed of Christmas or the meaning and reason for Christmas. I am thankful that Jesus came to earth and was born of the Virgin Mary, and grew to become a man who would go to the cross and die for my sins and the sins of all mankind. Paul echoes this sentiment when he says, in 2 Corinthians 9:15-“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Let that be your attitude this year as we celebrate Christmas this year and take time to give thanks to God for Jesus Christ, the reason for the season. Merry Christmas and God bless you all in the new year of 2014.
Matt Skiles is pastor at Lebanon Rock Church.