Dr John Parankimalil
Christmas began with a simple but profound story that changed the world forever. Nearly two thousand years ago there was born in Bethlehem of Judea, a babe whose life was destined to affect countless millions. That babe was Jesus Christ. He was born into the most humble circumstances imaginable. It wasn’t what they were expecting, because they were expecting a king. They were expecting a king who would come in all His glory and splendour. He didn’t come that way the first time, because God’s plan was for Him to come as a humble ordinary man.
Today Christmas has become so commercialized it has lost its true meaning, so much of Christmas has been hijacked by popular cultural activities and transformed into something it was never meant to be. But it will be more realistic only when we understand the real meaning and significance of Christmas. Historically, Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of God in Jesus. Traditionally Christmas a time of wonder and joy, of generosity and peace that brings family and friends together in celebration and we observe the holy traditions that make the season captivating. Usually we are so preoccupied with the celebration that we sometimes forget the celebrant. Christ is the centre of Christmas and He is the reason for the season.
The meaning of Christmas
Most of the traditional customs of Christmas, such as gift giving, tree decorating, light hanging, Santa Claus and feasting, come from diverse sources. Some see it as the greatest business time of the year which is fuelled by the exchange of gifts? Others consider it the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many attend church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and later gather for Christmas dinner with extended family. However Unlike any other baby, the one born that night in Bethlehem was unique in all of history.
It is vital to remember that the existence of the son of God did not commence with His birth in Bethlehem. John says that He existed “in the beginning” before anything was created.(John 1:1-3). When did the earthly life of Jesus Christ really begin? John 1:14 tells us that “the Word (referring to Jesus Christ) became flesh and lived among us.” That takes us back before Bethlehem to the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Christmas began not in Bethlehem but nine months earlier when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and implanted within her the divine-human Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35). God spent his first nine months on earth as a preborn baby fully alive, fully human, Fully God.
Christmas trees, Santa Claus, decorations, exchanging gifts, and the many other seasonal traditions that most of us observe are wonderful ways for family and friends to mark this time of year. What we must all take care to remember is that these customs, enjoyable as they are, ultimately have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas — the “reason for the season” — is found only in the message of the gospel. Here it is, so beautifully summarized in John gospel 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.
The true meaning of Christmas is God’s love. The real Christmas story is the story of God becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. God loved His own and provided a way—the only Way—for us to spend eternity with Him. He gave His only Son to take our punishment for our sins. He paid the price in full, and we are free from condemnation when we accept that free gift of love. Bible says “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The miracle of Christmas
For some, Christmas is the time to think of Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. While the birth of Christ is a special and miraculous event, it isn’t the primary focus. The central truth of the Christmas story is this: the Child of Christmas is God in a Manger. Christmas is not about the Saviour’s infancy; it is about His deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to conceal the reality that God was being born into the world. Unlike any other baby, the one born that night in Bethlehem was unique in all of history. The angel said to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) He was not created by a human father. He is God, the Son—Creator of the Universe (Philippians 2:5-11).
If Jesus had not been born of a Virgin, then He would have been a mere man with no ability to atone for our sins. If there was no Virgin Birth, then there was no sinless Christ. If there was no sinless Christ, then there was no atonement. If there was no atonement, then there is no forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness, then there is no salvation. If you take away the Virgin Birth, you lose everything. Therefore Angel’s announcement to Mary introduced the pivotal point in redemptive history. How people respond to the Child whom God spoke of will determine their eternal destinies. Of all the miracles recorded in the Bible, perhaps the greatest is the incarnation, the coming of God the Son into human flesh.
The history of this world needs a divine intervention. Christmas is a call to connect our story with “His” Story. Jesus Christ can transform our stories of unhappiness to a blessed one. He can transform our Families to a place of happiness and Peace. He can transform our Nation to places of brotherly love and joy. Christmas is accurately this call to get transformed. It is not something that happens externally. But it should happen in the spirit and faith; in thoughts and deeds. As “the Word was made Flesh”… Then it is Christmas…a real “to be with God”…
The Message of Christmas
The true message of Christmas is that Eternal God came to earth in the form of man in order to save His own creation. When Jesus was born the angel said to shepherds living out in the fields nearby, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:8-14)
After hearing the message of the angels, the shepherds responded; “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” The Christmas message is discovering God with us and in Jesus’ life we see God’s love and desire for justice and peace. The Blessings of Christmas is to be found in the very presence of God in our personal life. This is Good news and it must be shared. Christmas should draw us together to tell the world’s greatest story once again, and share true fellowship. The joy of Christmas is to be found in a spirit of rejoicing in the Lord. Helen Keller rightly said “The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.”
The Bible is quite descriptive and clear on how Jesus will come again. One out of every 30 verses speaks about his second coming – that’s over 2,000 times the Bible refers to his return. All the
prophets, apostles and Bible writers agree that Jesus will come with all his splendour, in majestic glory, surrounded by all the angels from heaven! The Lord Jesus said: “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). Therefore, to be ready for the second coming of Jesus is the most important thing in all your life.
There is nothing on this earth that can even faintly compare with this glorious hope, the second coming of Jesus. His second coming will usher in an age when a deep and abiding faith in his coming again will purify and uplift you. No wonder it is worth every effort to be ready for that day. Will you be among the joyous welcoming group, singing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King,”
May Christmas 2018 bring about an increase of good will in each one of us. Good will to love, to forgive and to share our time, our energy and what we have with the poor and the needy. Then will our wish “Happy Christmas” put on flesh and blood as God put on flesh and blood in Jesus Christ.