I spent many years celebrating Christmas like most folks do. Pouring incredible amounts of time and resources into gifts for family and friends. I spent time preparing for office holiday parties and there were several occasions that I spent drinking too much. I am not proud of this yet I have to acknowledge that this is how I chose to celebrate the season. My lack of respect for the holiday was forever changed when I experienced Christmas in Korea.
For starters, only Christians celebrated Christmas. It was a novel experience to live in a society where the holiday was not so commercialized or sensationalized. Those that celebrated Christmas in Korea made it a relatively low key event. Children got one gift and the church was at the center of the celebration. At its core Christmas is a religious holiday and it was treated as such. A mentor and friend, Dr. Mark Krause - Dean of Academics at Nebraska Christian College, recently wrote:
"The celebration of Jesus’s birth brings out many beloved things for us: babies, gifts, music, and family to name a few. But at its heart, Christmas is a theological holiday. It looks at one of the greatest mysteries in human history: how could God become human? Was Jesus God or Man? Or both? In our moments of deepest theological honesty, we look at this mystery of the incarnation and must say, "I don't know. I don't understand it fully, but I am sure glad that it happened."
God is great, and I'm sure he could have come up with another plan for human redemption from sin other than taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus. But this is what God chose to do. So, while Christmas is meaningless without Easter, Easter is impossible without Christmas."
He sums up so eloquently the challenges we face with Christmas in America these days and it was what I so poignantly experienced in Korea; Christmas celebrated as a religious experience. How many of us stop to think about the mysteries of Christmas? How many of us stop and think about who and what we actually celebrate this time of year? How many of us dig into the intricacies of God’s redemption plan and how it was started. How is it possible that a sinful human could give birth to God?
There is a popular phrase this time of year that I scoff at a bit…Keep Christ in Christmas. I want to encourage you to see that there is no need to keep Him in Christmas but to understand and begin to embrace that Christ is Christmas. He is the centerpiece of God’s plan for redemption and salvation and that started at His birth. Just as the angels stated to the shepherds all those years ago…That is good news. In fact, I dare say, it is the best news you will read today.