Obviously, Christmas is a distinctly Christian celebration. That being said, the celebration tends to have incorporated traditions from other places, as well. It has also been co-opted by retailers, politicians and even the general public and turned into a celebration with many extra-Christian characteristics. While I don’t personally have any problem enjoying some of the extra-Christian elements that have become associated with the holiday season (like Santa, decorating the Christmas tree, viewing the Christmas lights, shopping, enjoying secular Christmas music, and the like), I do think it is important for Christians to keep in mind its true meaning and make sure that our celebration has its focus there.
In order to do that, we will take a look at Christmas from a Christian worldview perspective. The starting place for understanding the true significance of Christmas is with the essentials of the Christian worldview. Once we have that, it is easy to see just where Christmas fits into the Christian faith.
Based on Biblical Authority
The foundation of a Christian worldview is established solely in the Bible. Thus, a Christian worldview belief about Christmas comes from the Bible’s teachings. Any belief about Christmas which does not come from the Bible cannot legitimately be considered Christian. Thus, while we can enjoy holiday traditions associated with the Christmas season which come from other places, we must be able to distinguish between what is part of the Christian faith and what is not.
Christmas, in Christian terms, is not merely a holiday for fun and family. There was a very specific reason why Christmas had to happen. It was a part of the very plan of God for the redemption of mankind. Without the historical events of the Christmas story having actually taken place, mankind’s salvation from the bondage of sin could not have been accomplished. The story of that salvation, and the place of the Christmas story in it, has been revealed in the Bible.
Based on the Nature of God
The Bible teaches that God is a particular kind of person, and certain elements of his personhood have a specific connection to a Christian understanding of Christmas. In particular, we need to note the fact that God is a relational person. As Creator, he created humanity so that he could enjoy a relationship beyond himself. This concept is key. As a Trinity, God exists in relationship as an element of his very existence. This relational aspect of his personhood carries over from his relationship within himself to relationships he is able to have with the other creatures of his creation whom he made with the characteristics of personhood.
Based on the Nature of Man
According to the Bible, mankind is also a particular kind of creature, and the elements of our existence have a part to play in the story of Christmas. God created humanity in his image – that is, as persons capable of a self-conscious, loving relationship with him. God created mankind this way specifically so that this kind of relationship with him would be possible.
Initially, this relationship actually existed with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, because of the Fall, sin entered the world and caused a break in the relationship between man and God. God desired, however, to repair the break. This repair would require an act of God which is at the root of the Christmas event.
Based on God’s Plan for Mankind’s Salvation
Mankind’s salvation (the fix for the sin problem), was based on God’s love for this creature who had been created in his image, but also on his justice. Sin had to be judged, and the penalty for sin is death. The one required to pay the penalty is the one who commits the sin. Because of human frailty, every single human being has sinned and falls under the judgement of God.
But there was a way for man’s problem to be solved and restore the relationship with God. That solution required a holy sacrifice. It required a man to live a worthy (perfect) life then substitute himself for the guilty sinners as a sacrifice. As no mortal human being could qualify for this role, God determined to come to earth and live life as a human in order to become the sacrifice himself. The man Jesus Christ was this human.
Jesus was born of a virgin by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He lived a perfect life on earth which qualified him to become the sacrifice for man’s sin. At the appropriate time, he died on the cross as that sacrifice and rose from the dead demonstrating that he had the power to overcome sin and death. At that point, it is left only for individual human beings to acknowledge what God has done and personally receive his provision for themselves.
A Literal Solution for a Literal Need
The story of Christmas is not fiction. God is real, sin is real, man’s separation from God is real, and Christ’s birth, death and resurrection are real. God has done everything necessary to restore man’s broken relationship with himself.
Christmas is one part of that story. We celebrate the birth of Christ because that was the event that put into play the solution for our separation from God. As such, while it is okay to enjoy the various extra-Christian trappings associated with the holiday season, Christians need to be especially grateful to God that he was willing to go through with fixing our sin problem.
The true meaning of Christmas is found in what God has done for us in the Christmas event. He came to earth as a baby in order to accomplish the things necessary to provide for our eternal salvation. Our celebration of Christmas should include deep gratitude to God for the salvation he has provided and offerings of praise for his worthiness. As we celebrate the season, we should be especially focused on ways we can wade through the clutter in order to live out personally and share with others the true meaning of the Christmas celebration.
© 2011 Freddy Davis