This week we will take some time to reflect on the rich messages that come with Christmas, messages that everyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious leanings, can and should embrace.
In recent years it has become fashionable to ridicule Christmas. Some, in this modern world, would like to cancel Christmas and its symbols. Some symbols have been viciously attacked. But we need to pause and reflect on the beautiful themes and messages that go with the Christmas season.
What are some of those themes that go with the celebration of Christmas? Among them are the following: peace on earth; goodwill to all men; joy to the world; light shining in the darkness; gift sharing and the incarnation of the God of goodness into a world of chaos and evil. Which of these concepts would our culture benefit from it they were cancelled? And which would enhance the culture if they were truly embraced and broadly practiced?
Let’s do a brief analysis of each of the Christmas themes listed above.
“Peace on earth,” a great theme of Christmas, is needed across the nations of the world more than ever. Wars and conflicts are everywhere as nations, tribes and factions continue to engage in conflicts and war over religion and territory. Would it not be wonderful if humans embraced the theme of peace on earth and set it as a universal goal? We think so.
“Goodwill to all mankind!” When I hear those words, especially when they are combined with ‘peace on earth,’ the Jewish wish of shalom comes immediately to mind. That concept as best understood contains a wish or blessing that the recipient receives all things good. This wish, as it were, is intended to cover the recipient from head to toe with all good and pleasant experiences. Who in their right mind can reject the offering of peace on earth with goodwill towards all?
“Joy to the world,” is certainly one of the most prevalent themes of the Christmas holidays. Just think if we can bring “joy” to the many people who are sad, lonely or suffering across the world. At Christmas time we can proactively work to bring “joy” into the lives of others. Who can really work to cancel a festival with such a message? Only the real grinch!
“Light shining in the darkness,” is another theme that is so appropriate for this time of the year when the darkness of night is actually longer than the light of the day. Remember that the winter solstice which falls on December 21, four days before Christmas, is the shortest day, with the longest night. All the lighting that goes with Christmas from Christmas trees to other lighted decorations, remind us that there is hope in the midst of darkness. The night, where we stumble in the darkness will be pierced by the light of the world. The light dispels the darkness and all the evils that come with it.
“Gift-giving” comes with the season also. People sometimes demean the season of “gift giving” on the grounds that it fosters commercialism and materialism. Those who make this argument against sharing gifts at this time of the year seem to forget that the Christmas story is not complete until the wise men of the East arrive, bearing gifts. One beautiful hymn says: “sacred gifts with mystic meaning.” In some parts of the Christian world, Epiphany, January 6, the 12th day of Christmas, is celebrated highly as the day when the Three Wise Men, Kings of the East, arrived with their gifts of gold (money,) frankincense and myrrh. So, sharing gifts, with meaning, is a very important part of the season.
But while these themes of “peace on earth;” “goodwill towards all humankind;” “joy to the world;” “light shining in the darkness;” and “gift sharing” are key themes of Christmas. The one theme least understood and celebrated is the fact of the “incarnation.”
Most people do not realize that in Christian thinking, Christmas is celebrated as The Feast of the Incarnation. What does that mean? Well, the essence of Christmas with all its loveable themes resides in the concept of the Incarnation. The simplest way for explaining the carnation is to understand that God, who according to Christian belief, resides in his heavenly home, decided to become Man for a season to show humans how they ought to live.
The story goes something like this: God, the Father of all things good, made man and commanded him to be good, resisting all things evil. Man, over time showed an inability to lead the life of God, which is essentially the life of being good. Man thought it was just too difficult to do good all the time. Man thought that the good God in his high heaven could preach this “being good stuff,” but he did not really understand how hard it is for man here on earth to model his goodness. So, the God of Christianity decided to incarnate himself in human form, by becoming a man himself, so that he could show us humans how to live by the code of goodness: love, peace, goodwill, mercy and forgiveness et al.
According to the Bible, “when the time was right, God sent his son” to do a demonstration that would prove that, though difficult, humans can live a good and moral life. The Feast of the Incarnation, known popularly as Christmas, in commemorative of the time when God, the father of all things good, decided to incarnate in human form—God becoming man for a season, to show us how to lead good lives, lives that will bring peace and goodwill to all humankind. What a thought!
Think about this for a moment. God, in the English language is closely connected to all that is good. All things good: peace, love, forgiveness, longsuffering, truth, patience et al. All things good are associated with the God. And all things evil, are associated with the (d)evil. Got it yet? So, the God of goodness, love and mercy, choses to become human (incarnating himself in human flesh) to show us how we ought to live.
And that is the entire meaning of Christmas. That is why its themes are universally good for humanity, even for atheists who should want good and goodness to be incarnated into the human race.
And so, We wish you all a Happy, Merry Christmas and a Bright and Prosperous New Year!