I just got home from celebrating Christmas Eve with my family. My siblings are heading to be with the in-laws tomorrow, so we did the bulk of our Christmas stuff tonight. I live close enough to my parents that I chose to come back home so I could sleep in my own bead and then head back over tomorrow. Tonight I am feeling contemplative reflecting on the meaning of Christmas and the gifts I have received in my life.
The Meaning of Christmas
I know it has been asked, “What does Christmas mean?” Considering the word “Christmas” this is a remarkably simple question to answer. One night, millennia ago, there were shepherds tending their sheep. I imagine a still night, calm and unremarkable in just about any other way. Suddenly, there is a flood of light that appears as if from nowhere with a person standing in its midst. This person addresses the natural inclination toward fear that was undoubtedly felt by the shepherds at this sudden apparition. “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).” The scriptural account follows this declaration with the response of the shepherds not questioning what they just saw, but immediately leaving their flocks of sheep, their source of livelihood no doubt to go and see this child that should be the Savior of mankind.
Here is an opportunity for me to be open and honest. I have questioned whether this event took place all those years ago. If it did, how am I to know it? Such a question may seem silly from the point of view of any other member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considering the attitude toward personal revelation. For me, prayer and the concept of communicating with an unseen being has been something I have struggled with a lot lately.
Regardless of my personal challenges and doubts, the meaning of Christmas is clear to any person who has read the aforementioned verses from the Book of Luke in The New Testament. Christmas is celebrated as the commemoration of the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3), Christ came and made the way possible for us all to be forgiven of our sins and to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. This is the very heart of Christianity.
The Real Gifts of Christmas are Immaterial
When it comes to the Christmas season, it is too easy to become caught up in the commercial aspect of the holiday. We worry and fret about trying to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones. I can’t help but reflect on the key verse from Dr. Seuss’s Classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when he observes the Who’s down in Whoville that were singing and celebrating Christmas despite being deprived of all the trappings of Christmas, “It came without ribbons. It came with out tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags…Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
While it is all to easy to become caught up in the magic of Christmas, this ‘little bit more’ reflects that what Christmas is really all about is not magic, but a miracle. I was reminded of this fact by a fellow blogger, Matt Walsh in a post titled, Who needs Santa when you’ve got Jesus? While most of the Christmas holiday is centered around the arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick and the gifts he brings, he is not the true center of Christmas. He is nothing but a reflection of the greatest gift that mankind was given, but the title of greatest gift goes to the gift from our Eternal Father of his Son, Jesus Christ who was miraculously conceived and borne by the virgin Mary, who lived a sinless life, but who suffered for the sins of all mankind and was then crucified as the culmination of this suffering. Once the price was paid, the Easter miracle followed when Christ was the first who was risen from the dead as a perfect, immortal being who would never again succumb to the confines of the grave.
What Can We Give at Christmas
While there is nothing we, as imperfect mortal beings, could ever give to match the miraculous gift celebrated during Christmas, there is one thing that Christ has asked us to give with a promise that he would add more to that which he would bestow upon us, “If ye love me, keep my commandments…But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:15, 26-27)
The gift we are asked to give is to love God enough to keep his commandments, the greatest of these commandments being to “Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] strength, and with all [our] mind; and [our] neighbor as [our self] (Luke 10:27).” If we do this, we are promised the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the freedom of the peace of Jesus Christ.
This is what Christmas means. This is what I hope to do better at giving not just during this time of year, but hopefully throughout the rest of my life.