Each December, the Western world goes into a frenzy of preparation for one day, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The miraculous birth is recounted in the gospel of St. Matthew, who tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, “was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” When the angel of the Lord appeared before Mary’s distraught husband, Joseph, he was told:
Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
St. Matthew goes on to describe the circumstances of Jesus’ birth in the next chapter. On hearing of his birth, the wise men come to Jerusalem seeking the newborn King of the Jews, “for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” Thus, in the year 2003, the celebration is even more frenetic than ever, because the need of a Savior in this day and age of social madness is greater than ever.
Christ’s divine origin and destiny as Savior and Messiah were established at birth. And, as an adult, his reputation was already known far and wide, for when Jesus, at age 30, went to John the Baptist to be baptized, John said to him, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?”
Jesus answered: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, the time for His eternal messianic mission had come. The Bible then goes on:
And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened upon Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him. And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
And that is what we celebrate at Christmas: the miraculous birth of the Messiah, who was sent to this earth to save us from our sinful natures and to offer us forgiveness of sin, salvation and eternal life after death. That, in essence, is the power of Christmas.
The birth of Jesus told the world that God truly cared for mankind and had sent His only begotten son to offer us salvation. This was good news indeed, and that is why Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the most celebrated days in the entire calendar.
Many complain there is too much commercialism associated with the Christmas season. And each year the celebration seems to become more commercial than the year before, even eclipsing Thanksgiving Day and rolling on until the New Year like a consumer-driven tidal wave.
But when a whole nation, as secular as it is, is caught up in this most religious holiday, we must be impressed that what the world is celebrating with lights, music, feasting and gift-giving is not the birth of Buddha or Muhammad, but the birth of Jesus Christ.
No matter how hard the humanists and atheists work to deny the religious character of the holiday, they cannot obliterate Jesus Christ. Christmas is not some dull, soulless winter solstice, which could hardly arouse the excitement and delight of millions. Christmas is the world’s celebration of God’s goodness.
That is why it is a feast day for families, many of whom gather together in just this one day of the year, to celebrate marriage, the birth and rearing of children, and God’s abundant blessings. Family members exchange gifts to signify their belonging to one another. And while it is also true that good friends celebrate Christmas as if they were members of a family, the family that counts as the fabric of a nation’s social organization is the one connected by birth and lifelong attachment. That is the family made by God.
For children, Christmas is especially glorious. They understand through song and narrative that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent by God because of His love for us. To a child, the eternal love of God is an extraordinarily important existential and spiritual support throughout life.
And that is why the shopping-mall Santa has special meaning for children. He represents the benign existence of the supernatural. He is a giver of gifts and a monitor of the child’s behavior. And it is all charmingly conveyed in songs the child will be hearing during the entire Christmas season.
For adults, the popular sentimental songs about Christmas always bring back warm memories of past Christmases, for Christmas is also a milestone in one’s life. What is more heartrending than listening to a Christmas song that reminds us of parents and grandparents, friends and relatives … gone, and childhood vanished?
I believe that as more and more people in America and elsewhere come to Jesus Christ, we shall see a growing acknowledgment of the true meaning of Christmas – as a time of joy and happiness – as we rejoice in the birth of the most important person in human history, the Son of God. For He was sent to us for our own sake, to save us from sin, to make our lives better, richer, happier: to bring us closer to our Maker so that we may live according to His word and enjoy Him forever.