In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So what IS the true meaning of Christmas? If you watch the animated special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” you are told that Christmas is all about having a big heart, promoting Christmas cheer, and having peace on earth. Well, those things are nice, and they are wonderful side-effects, but they are not the true meaning.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” will show you how every person makes a difference to those around him, sharing love with family and friends, and realizing that Christmas is a great time to remember the good deeds that our friends have done. Again, none of those things are bad, but they are not the true meaning of Christmas.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” teaches acceptance and avoiding the judging of others on the basis of externals. Sure, that is a good lesson too, but it is not the true meaning of Christmas.
“A Christmas Carol” shows one being rescued and redeemed from the depths of self-worship and idolatry to showering others with love, earthly treasures, and “Christmas Spirit.” This comes the closest, yet the source of the redemption is still not clear.
Saint John tells us what Christmas is truly about. While Saint Matthew tells of the Wise Men and the Flight to Egypt, and Saint Luke fills us in on the birth of Jesus, the words and deeds of the Blessed Virgin, the shepherds, and angels. But John tells us the theology behind it all.
Christmas is all about God becoming Man. The Lord takes on human flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
That is it! THAT is the true meaning. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – because we needed the forgiveness, rescue, and salvation that He brings. And it is a meaning that escapes virtually every Christmas story. You see, a common theme runs throughout many of these films and books – a theme of making choices of words and deeds that make a difference for you and those around you.
But that is sinful in itself, holding to the idea that these choices are in your power. If these fictional characters were real, Ebenezer Scrooge could change himself. Only the Holy Spirit could reach out and rescue him from himself.
Are you an Ebenezer? Do you think you can save yourself by your miserly stewardship? Or are you a reformed Ebenezer? Do you think you can literally have the devil scared out of you, and rescue yourself with a long list of good deeds? The Grinch is the same way. It is as if his sudden change of heart redeems himself in the eyes of others. For that matter, George Bailey has all sorts of people praising his love and good deeds, as if they are what makes him good. And while it is sweet to realize how our lives touch so many others in ways we never comprehend, it could never do a thing for his standing before God.
All of these attitudes are wrong. They rely on one’s self and deny grace. If you foster these attitudes, you are rejecting salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Repent. You don’t need some ghosts to scare you into being good. “Keeping Christmas” by counting your good works won’t earn heaven. Don’t remain in your darkness of sin, death, and the devil.
If you remain in the mindset that you can work your way into heavenly peace, you are stuck in the same darkness as the rest of mankind, and only the Light of whom John speaks can bring you out of it. You end up right alongside His own [who] received Him not, and join in their rejection of the Light.
That Light is Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. And coming in the flesh, we see His glory. Christ is the Glory of God in the flesh, revealing that glory in manger, cross, and empty tomb. God enters time and space, becoming a Baby for you. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
He grows and suffers and dies for you. He brings you to the ultimate gift exchange, where you give Him all your sin, sickness, and darkness, and He gives you His health, righteousness and perfection.
Christmas is a time to celebrate that God has become Man, and because of this miracle, you are rescued. This morning you rejoice that He has done everything to save you, and nothing depends on how good you act. You are forgiven for all your failures and shortcomings. You are saved by Christ, and even taste Him who comes to you now, wrapped in the swaddling clothes of these linens, and laid on the manger of the altar.
So what is the true meaning of Christmas? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/hail the incarnate Deity/ Pleased as Man with man to dwell/Jesus our Immanuel/Hark the herald angels sing/Glory to the newborn King.”
Rejoice with all of heaven and earth this morning, as God our Savior has come to earth. He became one of us, and lived among us, and died among us, and rose among us – all so we can live with Him forever!
Merry Christmas! Amen.