A Christ-Centered Christmas: The Ultimate Joy beyond Holiday Trappings

Dec 24, 2023 – The Nativity of Our LORD, Christmas Eve | Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2

What Truly Defines Christmas?

'Tis the season, and the unmistakable aura of Christmas is in the air. The arrival of snow, the twinkling lights, and the meticulous decorations that adorn homes and public spaces all contribute to the festive ambiance. Families gather from near and far, marking the end of the frantic shopping season. 

Amidst all the trappings, we must ask ourselves a question. What truly defines Christmas? 

Unraveling Christmas Traditions 

From Decorated Trees to Festive Carols and the True Essence of the Season

Bing Crosby famously dreamed of a white Christmas, but can't we have a brown or green one, too? A holiday centerpiece is the brightly decorated Christmas tree. However, few people seem to know why it has become such an integral part of Christmas. It has become a tradition that is simply associated with the holiday. 

Perhaps the presence of carolers strolling through the neighborhood truly invokes the Christmas spirit. After all, you won't find anyone singing carols at any other time of the year. Maybe, for you, the essence of Christmas lies in the act of giving and receiving gifts. It could also be the big family dinner, the office parties, or the abundance of cookies and goodies.

Let us ponder another thought-provoking question for a moment. If we were to strip away all these external trappings, would we still have Christmas? 

The Role of Christ in the Modern Celebration of the Season

Nearly a decade ago, a National Organization of atheists sponsored a large electronic sign in New York Times Square that crossed out "Christ" in the word "Christmas." The sign boldly proclaimed, "You don't need Christ to have Christmas."

I once watched an interview with an outspoken atheist who confidently claimed that he and his fellow atheists could show us how to have an even more joyful Christmas without Christ, without God. To those of us who have grown up with the biblical account of Jesus' birth, this may sound absurd. However, I believe that his comments resonate with a significant portion of Americans today. 

It's not that they are against Christ; they simply fail to understand the significance of Luke's narrative or the need for Jesus Christ to celebrate Christmas. For the activities they wish to indulge in during this season, they genuinely don't need Christ. Jesus Christ might not fit in well with most people's Christmas celebrations. They might even feel embarrassed if Jesus were to show up at their Christmas party.

Origins and Interpretations of Modern Christmas Celebrations

Is this ignorance about a Christless Christmas the result of a war on Christmas waged by liberals and secularists? Throughout history, Jesus Christ and Christmas have always had enemies and detractors. 

There have also been those who, as purists, refuse to celebrate Christmas or have any association with it. Interestingly, these purists may be the ones who truly understand the essence of Christmas. They reject it because they want no part in Christ or the message that Christmas symbolizes. They do not desire the Son of Mary.

However, I believe that most Americans are unaware or uninformed. I don't think they actively reject celebrating Christmas like that atheist. 

They yearn for the festivities, the parties, the gifts, the merriment – and the merchants certainly aren't complaining since Christmas greatly benefits their bottom line. Yet, amidst these supporters of the modern-day Christmas festivities and trappings, numerous ideas and interpretations emerge.

The Role of Society and the Evolution of Holiday Traditions

I wonder if the term "happy holidays" is a more fitting vocabulary for what most people associate with Christmas. No one is forcing them to abandon Christmas or change it in any way. No one is threatening them if they choose to celebrate Christmas. 

So, whether you call it a war on Christmas or simply the ongoing rejection of Christ, the reality is that the true culprit behind the commercialization of Christmas is you and me. It is the Christians of today and the generations that came before us. 

Society often remains ignorant about the true meaning of Christmas because we have done a poor job of conveying the real message of Christmas. I'm not just referring to Christmas time – this applies to every day of the year.

The Message of Christ

Rediscovering the True Essence of the Season

An impartial observer of our actions and behaviors during Christmas would likely struggle to distinguish any significant difference between our celebrations and those of our secular and non-Christian neighbors. That is a tragedy. What's truly disheartening is not merely that our society's observance of Christmas has shifted from its original intent. People are losing sight of Christ, the Savior, in the process.

Let us revisit the words of the heavenly messenger who appeared to the shepherds that night, "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord." 

That is why our atheist friends are so misguided. They confuse the secular aspects of Christmas with the genuine message it carries.

Seeking Salvation

The Universal Longing for a Savior

Everyone (including athiests), longs for a Savior. Even if they may not admit it, they, too, seek deliverance from financial crises, failing marriages, deteriorating health, loneliness, obesity, political enemies, and ultimately, death. 

The world is full of various "saviors" – government agencies, charity groups, and ambitious entrepreneurs eager to help us with our worldly problems. However, the world cannot provide what it cannot offer. Namely, that is a Savior from the very root of our problems – our sin.

The Gift of Salvation and Hope

Rediscovering True Joy

That is precisely why we don't need more "happy holidays," but we do need the true meaning of Christmas. The good news of great joy is that Christmas assures us that God, in His love and concern for each of us, has already given us His only begotten Son. Born of Mary, He is the ultimate Savior for all of us.

The Son of God did not become human so that He could be our financial guru, marriage counselor, physician, diet coach, or friend in our moments of loneliness. He came to be the atoning sacrifice for all our sins – the sins of our unfaithfulness, the sins of our failure to be true messengers of the gospel. 

As the angel informed Joseph concerning the child miraculously conceived in Mary, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." That is the joyous news of Christmas.

A Message of Eternal Peace and Joy

From Immaculate Conception to Good Friday

The Immaculate Conception in Nazareth and the birth in Bethlehem were merely stepping stones leading us to the cross of Calvary. Christmas is not an endpoint; it culminates in Good Friday. It is this message that fills the heavenly angels with uncontainable joy, causing them to sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased." 

The Savior born of Mary, through His atoning blood, has secured eternal peace with God for you and me. That is why we continue to sing, "Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns."

Does it feel like Christmas yet? I wish every one of you a most blessed Christmas. May you find comfort in knowing that your Savior has come in the name of Jesus, for His glory. Amen.


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