What is Christmas all about? Nan and I have seen Christmas celebrating all over the world in some very interesting and very strange places, both by those who are Bible believers and by those who are not. What is it that always seems to come out no matter where you are around the world? And as I thought about it, five things came to my mind that you always see around Christmas celebrations. I’m sure many of you will identify with at least one, if not all, of these five things.
The first one is family. You know, Christmas time is, for many people, one of the loneliest times of the year. And the reason that they feel it so much is because either they’re isolated from or maybe alienated from the rest of their family. Family is what it really is all about. Family coming together. And I think when I get to the end of this short message, you’ll kind of see how that fits in.
But family presupposes something else. It presupposes love. You know, love really begins in a family. It’s in a family where we either learn to love or, unfortunately, oftentimes, the greatest lack of love is felt. The greatest desire of every human heart is to love and to be loved in return. And so, family logically leads to love.
Love inevitably leads to giving. Because where there’s love, there has to be giving. There has to be sacrifice. There has to be give and take. And around Christmas time, of course, we think of the giving of gifts. The giving of gifts obviously implies a giver and a recipient. Of course, we often say Christmas is for children. But, you know, the children have in their minds those gifts that they’re going to receive; they’re not thinking so much yet of that which they can give. I would hope that Christmas for every one of us would remind us of and maybe even rebuke us of the gifts that we ought to be giving every day. Every single day of our life we have the opportunity to give love to others, to show patience to others, courtesy, kindness, and probably one of the greatest of all gifts that we can give—and that is the gift of forgiveness.
The giving of gifts brings joy. Jesus said, “It is [much] more blessed to give than it is to receive” (Acts 20:35). But where there’s giving, and particularly genuine, heartfelt giving, there’s always going to be joy in the recipient as well as in the giver.
Joy leads us, I think, sometimes even unconsciously, to the fifth of these things that we see all around the world, and that is hope. All of us have a hope that maybe things will be better next year. We have a hope that maybe we’ll not lose what we have: our freedoms, our prosperity, our nation. We have many hopes. Those of us who are older, have a lot of hope for our children and for our grandchildren. We hope that they will know some of the blessings that we’ve had and experience some of the things that we’ve experienced.
But as I mentioned, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Bible believer or not—these themes come up over and over again. So, what is the real difference? Well, the real difference is the Person that Christmas is all about. And if we somehow could go back 2000 years and stand with those shepherds in the area that is today called the Shepherds Field and see the appearance of that magnificent and glorious angel who said, as it’s recorded in Luke chapter two, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which will be for all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,”—that’s the Person who makes sense of all the other things. Because you know what? No matter how much we love our family, no matter how much love we share among family and friends, how many gifts we get or give, how much joy we get in this life, sooner or later, it’s all going to end.
The question is, “What comes next?” I think Jesus best stated this as he spoke to a religious leader. Like many of our religious leaders today, he was a religious leader who didn’t know how to lead—a guy named Nicodemus. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” And Nicodemus said, “How is this possible?” As the Lord continued on in John chapter three, He came to that best-known verse in the entire Bible—one that we should reflect on, one that we should dwell on often—that is, John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him would never perish but have everlasting life.”
I hope, for each and every one of us, that that promise, that passage, will take hold of our hearts and our souls this Christmas season. Because, for those who believe in Him, family, love, gifts and giving, joy and hope are going to go on forever and ever and ever.
Gene and Nan