When she was three years old, my niece played the role of a sheep in the annual church Christmas play. So, when assigned the same bleating role again at age four, Lori sighed, “Every year, it’s the same thing!” We laughed (and still do) at the thought of one so young tiring of routine after just two occasions spaced an entire year apart. Yet this little humorous episode in our family lore raises the weightier question: What is Christmas, really? If Christmas were merely a festive time of year—even a season of sharing and celebrating together—then “Every year, it’s the same thing” might well describe it. We would decorate our living space, prepare a special meal, and give a gift or two to those we love. We might go to church to hear the familiar story and sing familiar songs, and when the season ended, we would pack all of our red, green, gold and glitter away until another year of “the same thing.”
But Christmas is much more than a seasonal celebration: it is for us life itself. For God our Father sent His Son in human form to be with us, to live among us, and to remain in us. This Son took on the name, Jesus, which means to save, rescue or deliver, for this is what He came to do: to save us from the penalty of our sin and to raise us to life that never ends. Though He ascended to heaven at the end of His natural life, His Spirit continues to live in all who believe in Him, uniting us with Him for an eternity of fresh todays. “Do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”1 wrote the apostle Paul to early-church believers. The same is true of us today because of Jesus, the generous, everlasting Christmas gift of God.
So, let’s celebrate! Let’s adorn our homes, give of ourselves and our possessions, share from our table, and savor precious time with those we love. Let’s sing the songs of Christmas and read the story of that first Noel. And though we put away the decorations and finish off the leftovers, and though the world puts Christmas behind until “the same thing” next year, let us remember that Jesus is here each and every today. He came in the flesh, and His Spirit remains in us. He was born for this, and we were born for Him. He loves us that much.
But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12, 13)
Merry Christmas to you, today and every day of the year.
1 2 Corinthians 13:5