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At this time of year, you may notice signs or stickers that say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s absolutely true, and it’s a helpful reminder in a society that seems to spend most of our Christmas energy buying and exchanging gifts.
There is nothing wrong with giving! It’s a wonderful way to be generous, and generosity is a very good thing. But spending money is not the reason for Christmas. Jesus is indeed the reason for the season.
So let’s review the basics. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The word “Christmas” is 1,000 years old and means “Mass of Christ”. The name reminds us that the service or mass on December 25 is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ.
If you don’t know the whole story, you can find a Bible online or on a bookshelf and read a few verses from the Gospel of Luke. Read the first 20 verses of Luke chapter two and you will get to the heart of the Christmas story.
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This is the story of the angels, the shepherd and the stable. Nativity scenes you may see are based on this version of the Christmas story. But Christmas celebrates more than the historic event of Jesus’ birth some 2,000 years ago. Jesus is the reason for the season, but what does the birth of Christ mean?
In the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament we read that Jesus is “the exact stamp of God’s character” (Hebrews 1:3). For us, Jesus embodies the reality of God, which is beyond our understanding. Everything we need to know about God can be seen in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
And what do we see? Jesus was completely loving. He loved the “unwelcome” people of his time: blackmailers, collaborators, prostitutes and other notorious sinners. He brought healing and hope to a world that was just as sick and anxious as ours. He said that instead of hitting back, if someone hits us, we should turn the other cheek. He said that giving away our possessions is the best thing we can do with them.
Jesus said that our two great responsibilities are to love God and to love our neighbors. In case we missed the point, he taught us that our neighbors are… everyone. Dear God, dear people. This is our job, said Jesus.
So this Jesus showed us a completely different way of life. But what about his birth? What can we learn about God from the Christmas story?
Jesus was not born in a mighty palace, but in a humble village. The good news of Jesus’ birth was first given to shepherds, not princes. The birth of Jesus was not proclaimed by royal decree, but by angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
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Taken together, these facts of Jesus’ birth paint a picture for us. We see that God chooses humility over power. God values the lowly. God reaches to the edges. God is loving, embracing and radiant.
There is a Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti that is often set to music. It begins with “Love came down at Christmas”. And that’s exactly right. Next to our Jesus is the reason of the season stickers, we could place Love is the reason of the season stickers.
The good news of Christmas is that God loves us so much that he sent his son into the world to offer grace, mercy, hope, healing and redemption. Christmas is all about love because Jesus is all about love.
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In any case, let’s greet each other with a cheerful “Merry Christmas”. And let us love God and love our neighbor. Love is the best thing to celebrate at Christmas and it’s the best way to celebrate Christmas. It’s all about love.
It’s a good lesson for us to pay attention to. How has love shaped your life? How could you give the gift of love to others, friend or stranger?
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