We should not deny the un-reason of the season.  We should not deny that the incarnation is paradoxical and the story seems impossible, even offensive to ordinary human reason.  We should celebrate it, for our faith hinges upon it. 

God showed His character on Christmas.  God expressed Himself.  God showed that he outstrips human reason.  God showed that our calculations of possibility mean nothing to Him.  If ours were not a God of the impossible and the unexpected, then we would still be dead in our sin.  If He were not a God who accomplished the unthinkable, who overturned the order of the world, then we would still be striving to justify ourselves before God through good works. 

It is precisely because God chooses the insignificant, the weak, the foolish, the suffering and the oppressed that we have the hope we have. 

4.  Finally, God showed us in Christmas what it means to love. 

Christmas gifts are shared in memory of the magi and the gifts they brought from afar.  Yet the ultimate Gift-Giver in the Christmas story is God.  God shows us, in Christmas, what it means to give.  God did not give sparingly and selectively -- He gave lavishly to all.  God did not require that we first demonstrate our worthiness or earn His affection -- He found us while we were yet sinful and brought us grace and forgiveness.  God did not give objects and artifacts -- He gave Himself, restored us to a right relationship with Him, and bade us be reconciled with one another.  God did not give from a distance -- He entered into the trenches with us, into the deepest pits of our fears and struggles and sufferings, in order to be with us, to strengthen us, to edify and sactify us. 

God showed us what it means to sacrifice ourselves in love for one another.  "If you love me," Jesus told Peter, "feed my sheep."  The compassion of God is set upon all of his creatures.  When we give ourselves, sacrifice ourselves, when we enter into the trenches with one another, when we restore broken relationships and deepen the bonds of friendship and family, when we give even to those who have wronged us or failed us or disappointed us, then we are honoring what God showed us in Christmas.  We are honoring who God, in the Christmas story, showed Himself to be.  We are honoring Christ, the one born in Bethlehem, who died on the cross of Golgotha, who rose into the heights, and who dwells even now in the least of these. 

When I pause for a moment in the holiday busy-ness, these are the things that rise up in my heart.  These are the reasons I celebrate Christmas.

 

This first appeared as "Why Christmas Matters to Me" at the Christ and Culture blog. 

Timothy Dalrymple is the manager of the Evangelical Portal at Patheos.  Educated at Stanford, Oxford, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Harvard, he writes on religion, politics, culture, and faith.