Day 1: The Christ of Christmas
“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, ESV).
Christmas… “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” right? I mean, is there really anyone who disagrees with that? It’s okay if you do; we can still be friends—I just can’t promise to understand you.
I’ve always loved everything about Christmas, and for as long as I can remember, it has been the best and most anticipated part of each year.
But why do so many people love Christmas? Is it the decorations and Christmas trees, the songs, the time spent with family? Well, I think it’s all those things, along with everything else we do to celebrate Christmas. We call these things “Christmas traditions,” and they are what we look forward to each year. Christmas traditions make Christmas what it is—or do they?
Are traditions really what Christmas is about?
To answer this, we can look at what the Bible says. It doesn’t specifically talk about Christmas traditions, but it does talk about two other types. The first is when Jesus rebuked religious leaders for their traditions—superficial rules that they followed to appear outwardly religious. The problem with those was that they were elevated to be more important than God’s commandments (Mark 7:9). This type of tradition was obviously viewed negatively, but the Bible also talks about good traditions. When the apostle Paul was giving instructions to local churches, he commended the Christians for keeping the traditions he taught them—the things God’s chosen teachers taught from Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Following these traditions was good because they were based on the Bible.
So what does that mean for our Christmas traditions? If we want to understand their place, I think we are actually caused to ask a more essential question: what is Christmas really about?
Now you won’t see the word “Christmas” in the Bible, nor is it even likely that Jesus was born in December (another topic for another time). But the Bible does tell us about Jesus’ birth, which is exactly what we celebrate on December 25th each year. In fact, many people acknowledge Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth whether they claim to be “religious” or not.
But why do we celebrate Jesus’ birth? Why was He born?
The answer is told beautifully in Matthew 1:21. An angel of God visited Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, to tell him the truth about Jesus’ birth. The angel said, “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
That is why Jesus was born. He came to save us from our sins.
Since nearly the beginning of time, humankind has continually betrayed God and done everything against what He’s asked of us (Romans 3:23). We’ve not only ruined the relationship we once had with Him, but our wrongs against Him also require that we die (Romans 6:23). We can’t fix that relationship because our hearts are still full of sin and wrong; we are helpless.
But God loves us.
He wants a relationship with us again, and He doesn’t want us to suffer the payment for our sin, so He gave us the greatest gift: His only Son, Jesus.
Jesus, unlike us, never did anything wrong against God, so He took our sin—and its punishment—and died in our place. This satisfied God’s requirement for our sins and can save us from having to pay that price.
That is what the angel meant when He said Jesus would save His people from their sins.
So, are traditions really what Christmas is about? I hope you now see that there is far more meaning in the birth of Jesus.
But then, what is the point of Christmas traditions?
Well, just as the traditions in the Bible were viewed positively or negatively based on whether or not they focused on God’s Word, Christmas traditions can follow that same principle—they are only worth as much as they point to the true meaning of Christmas.
As long as the birth of our Savior is what is most important to us, then it would seem that the traditions are in the right place. After all, they are a reminder of God’s goodness to us in giving us the greatest reason to celebrate. Like the apostle Paul said, every blessing we have is from God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, ESV).
So if we are blessed enough to have Christmas traditions—and even people to share them with—let’s thank God for that, while making sure our traditions truly magnify the greatest gift we’ve ever been given: the Lord Jesus.