Why Christmas Matters to Me

It is right and fitting to "walk and talk with Jesus."  Without Jesus, our relationship with God grows cold and abstract, the contractual relationship of a creature to its Creator.  With Jesus, the very same Jesus who entered the world in the event we celebrate at Christmas, our relationship with God is interpersonal; it is passionate and intimate, characterized not only by worship and reverence but also by tender mercy and forgiveness, love and mutual understanding.  With Jesus, we can know God and be known by God through and through.  With Jesus, we have footsteps in which to walk.  With Jesus, we have the transformative presence and power of God with us even in our most human and most painful moments.

Without Christmas, we have no Jesus.  With Christmas, with Jesus, we have all that we need and more than we could ever need: for we have Emanuel, God with us.  

3.  We celebrate in Christmas that God delights in accomplishing the impossible and exceeding the hopes of men, in using the small, the weak and the foolish things of the world to humble the great, the mighty and the wise.  

Christmas is, among other things, a story of the impossible.  God becomes human.  The timeless, changeless God enters into history with all its change and variation.  The mighty God who created all things humbles Himself and becomes a helpless infant.  The "reason for the season" is decidedly un-reasonable.  This is not what reason would expect.  Reason would tell us that these things are impossible.  Yet God loves to explode human conceptions of what is possible.  God loves to show us that He is greater -- and nearer to us in love -- than we had imagined. 

Christians should forever cherish the paradoxes of Christmas, the paradoxes of the incarnation and redemption, and should never deny the many ways in which they are offensive to secular reason.  When the first generations of Christians began to tell the tale of God's incarnation in a manger in Bethlehem, their story was profoundly offensive to the sensibilities of those around them.  The notion of a God become flesh, a God who entered the world amid the effluvium of birth, a God who came not as a conquering King or superhuman hero but as a flailing and weeping infant, as a poor carpenter and the son of a carpenter, a God who had to endure all the excretions and indignities of embodied life, and a God who was rejected and tormented and ultimately slain -- Jews and Gentiles alike found this profoundly offensive to reason, precisely the opposite of what one would expect. 

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. 

12/24/2009 5:00:00 AM
  • Holidays
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.
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