What Is Christmas About? (II)
Christmas is about love
We give gifts to family and friends, or, to 'loved ones'. In other words, at its best, our giving at Christmas is an expression of love. Christmas is about love - that is, not just a noun connotating an emotion or feeling. There is a sense in which this is true, but more importantly Christmas is about loving - that is, acting for the benefit of another. For us as sinful fallen men, the former may more often be true of our actions. We give because of a warm affection for another person (or worse yet, out of obligation). But the first Christmas was about an act of love.
I direct you again to John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Why did the Father give the Son? Not because He saw anything in us worth saving. The reason for the sacrifice is in the heart of God, an expression of the love He has for us.
If that sounds harsh, hear the Apostle Paul's words on the subject (Romans 5:8): "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God's love is manifested not to righteous people. Not even to "nice" people, but to naughty people. To sinners. Paul goes on to say in Romans 5:10 that it was while we were enemies of God that we were reconciled to Him. We associate Christmas with being with people we like, and who like us. But Jesus came to a world that rejected Him (John 1:11 - "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.")
As a side note, some of you may know what that is like. You may be rejected by your own family. If so, take comfort that Jesus knows rejection as well. You need not walk through that valley alone, for He walked it before you did and knows your pain.
Do you see the depth of the Father's love. He did not send the Son to those who would welcome Him with open arms. In fact, after the birth of Jesus, Herod was so intent on seeing Him dead he killed every male child under two years old that was in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). The Father's love was so great that He sent the Son to those who were His enemies.
And the Son came willingly. Just as the Father loves us, so also Jesus loves us. His love is a love that sacrifices for others. Not just some little sacrifice, but the sacrifice of His life. Jesus said (John 15:13), "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends." Jesus loved us to the point of dying in our place. He gave up His life that we might have life. He bore the Father's wrath for our sin that we might stand blameless in the Father's presence. That little baby in the manger came with the express purpose of hanging on a cross in my place.
But not just the the Father and the Son love us. The third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, loves us as well. Look again at Paul's words, this time in Romans 5:5, where the apostle writes, "and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." We see again giving, but now, after Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, we are given the Spirit.
See what this passage says about what the Spirit does. The Spirit is the instrument by which we experience the love of God. Jesus paid our the penalty of our sin that we might experience God's love. Yet it is the Spirit who is the active person of the Trinity in bestowing that love upon us. That is to say that it is the Spirit who in love transforms us from sinners to saints. Then He confirms His love by never leaving us, even though at times the Bible says we "quench" His work and even "grieve" Him. Still He comforts us and intercedes for us.
I said there were three terms that we associate with Christmas. I have discussed giving and loving. Next I want to discuss a term that may be less common than it once was, but has a very significant role in our understanding of Christmas.