Christmas is a wonderful time of year, a time of joy, a time of celebration, a time for gifts, and a time to be with family. In fact, for just these reasons, for many people this is their favourite time of year. But I want to ask a simple question what is the message of Christmas? What does it all mean?
I think in today’s world there are many messages at Christmas. In fact, you could say that Christmas sends a lot of mixed symbols.
Gifts: One of the messages of modern Christmas is that it is all about gifts. People love gifts, nearly everyone loves giving gifts, and nearly everyone loves receiving gifts. It is a simple and personal way that you can bless a person, bring them a moment of joy, and add to their lives.
But let’s be honest, everyone here who has kids, and kids love gifts, how many of your kids are still focused on what they got for Christmas last year? Haven’t they forgotten them already. Indeed, they then had their birthday, and their grandparents came around with gifts, and after a little while the gifts they loved when they opened them and said wow when they saw them are all but forgotten…like clouds in the desert. Already they have completely moved on from most of the gifts, though they will still bring their favourites out every now and then to play with. If your kids are like mine, they have been trawling through the catalogues for a while now, pointing out things they want…indeed they don’t take long after Christmas to start doing this.
Why do they move on so quickly? Because as we all know, even the best gift can only bring a moment of joy. No gift can satisfy forever, no thing can satisfy forever, no matter how awesome, expensive, or novel it was.
Gifts are wonderful, and good to give and receive…but they don’t satisfy.
Food: Another message of Christmas that we are all familiar with is feast, feast till your heart is content, feast like there is no tomorrow, feast till you can feast no more. There is no such thing as a good party without good food. I mean, when there is no food at a party, you can’t wait to leave and get some. And when the food is bad, it brings the whole thing down, doesn’t it?
Feasting has a long tradition in our culture, indeed in every culture. In fact peace treaties are often signed over food, weddings involved great meals, and many more examples could be given. Indeed, we all know, that most of us are going to eat too much on Christmas, day, and it will be rich food, hams, pork roasts, turkeys, and for the less fortunate: tofurkey… But we will grow hungry again. It might take a few extra hours than normal, because we feasted so liberally. But food, as awesome as it is, doesn’t bring us lasting joy. Indeed, it is more temporary than other gifts, because it is gone in but a few moments. It’s something we all enjoy, but it’s not something that will bring us lasting satisfaction…it’s not possible.
Family: This is probably one of the most important messages that many of us will be hearing about this Christmas. Indeed, you could say that in this secular day and age, family has become central to Christmas, the crux upon which it all hinges. And this makes sense. Family is one of the most important things that God gives us, one of the greatest gifts we ever get to experience, and it is the natural habitat of the healthy human being: to be and live in a family.
Where as gifts and food don’t satisfy for very long, family can bring us a deeper and more real joy. Seeing your kids play with their toys is often more enjoyable than opening your own gifts. Seeing them fight over their toys five minutes later reminds you of what it was like to be a child and have such simpler priorities. And a meal with a family you love is better than a meal alone.
But family can be a double edged sword at Christmas. For some people Christmas reminds them of how lucky they are to be in the family they are in. For others is brings into sharp relief the pain of broken relationships, the pain of loneliness, the despair of not being with the family they love and cherish.
Family is one of the best and most important gifts we can have this side of Christmas. But even family doesn’t truly satisfy us. There is still a deeper longing we all feel, a longing for a more eternal satisfaction.
C.S. Lewis, the famous writer who wrote the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe says that the reason that we can’t find full satisfaction in this life, is because we are not created to, our quest for eternal satisfaction can only be fulfilled before our eternal creator, and it can only begin to be satisfied by finding it’s true home: in Christ.
There is this fascinating encounter in the gospels that Jesus has with this Samaritan woman. We don’t know her name, but we know this about her, she has had five husbands, and the man she is now with is not her husband. We know this because Jesus mentions it. Why does Jesus bring this up with this woman? Because he sees that like so many of us in this life, she had sought satisfaction in the things this life can offer, but she had not found it.
But here is the key, he offers her something that he knows she wants, and it’s something we all need. He says this: “14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Jesus offers us something lasting, something solid, something that will never fade. Eternal life.
There are many messages we will hear at Christmas, many of them good. But the most important one is the reason Jesus came, and the reason we still celebrate Christmas today. Jesus was born of a virgin, as a small child, he grew to be a man in favour with God. He never sinned, like we do, he never made a mistake, he never rejected God in any way. You see when we lie, or hate, or be selfish, we are sinning before God. But Jesus never did any of that. He lived a perfect life, and he took the punishment we deserve for our sins, dying on the cross and rising again to prove that he is God. And why did he do all this: so that we could have the only thing that will ever satisfy us: salvation in God.
When we sing about peace and goodwill to all mankind at Christmas time this is what we refer to. When we say that “man will live forevermore, because of Christmas day” this is what we are referring to. Don’t say no to this gift. Enjoy the other parts of Chrissy, the gifts, the feasting, and especially your family, but don’t say no to the best gift of all, eternal life. Trust in Jesus, the king the angels sung about, who offers us eternal satisfaction with him.
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