What’s So Special About Christmas?
When it comes to the holidays, and I’m asked to name a favorite, it’s not difficult. Thanksgiving is the day. It’s a time when the air is crisp and clear, the bugs are off the screens, and sunburns and summer barbecues are over. Kids are back in school, sweaters are in, and maples allure us with their annual fashion show. It’s a day when kitchen is king; and smells of turkey, pumpkin, and dressing bring on an irrepressible surge of desire to strap on a napkin and do what real men are made to do. South Beach, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Dr. Atkins are all on the shelf. Family chatter, sessions of sharing the bundles of blessings we have to be thankful for, and that special grace around the table with hands clasped and hearts at rest, make Thanksgiving all that it should be.
But what about Christmas?
When it comes to Christmas, I feel like the man (I think it was Sir Winston Churchill) who was once asked to name the 10 most important people in the history of the world, as he reckoned them. His list was impressive. When he finished, he was asked why he had not named Jesus Christ. “Oh,” he said, “because He doesn’t belong on that list. You see, Jesus Christ is incomparable.” He was right, of course.
That’s how it is with the celebration of the nativity. It is the singular event on the calendar of Christians the world over that has no equal. Even my beloved Thanksgiving falls way down on the scale. Christmas is everything.
I am aware that people grouse about the claptrap of commercialization, exploitation, and degradation associated with the secularization of the season. But that’s of little concern to me. For those who are proper believers, Christmas is the premier season of the year that can be said to have a heart. Name all of the rest, yes, including Thanksgiving, and you’ll find some-thing unique about each. But Christmas is special. It is a day when no one is left behind. It is, and I have no intent to be sacrilegious, the true Jesus day for one and all.
Children anticipate it throughout the year—and for more reasons than just a pile of wrapping paper and toys that will too soon be cast aside. The baby Jesus in the manger, the songs, the stories, and the celebration indelibly mark the soul in an incalculably wonderful way. And if you take the time to think about it, there’s something quite miraculous in how young children are drawn to Jesus with an instinctive kind of love. That is as true today as it was when He took them in His arms and blessed them, as only deity could.
But what about the rest of us? Well, it’s our day, too, and I’ll tell you why. We are living in a frightful time in the history of our planet. There’s talk about wars, natural disasters, a culture gone mad, and a clash of civilizations the likes of which we have never seen before. Sit down with any parents or grandparents and ask them what they think their offspring will experience, as opposed to what we have known of life. Most likely you’ll see an etching of concern and uncertainty on their faces. And there is reason for concern and uncertainty. We live in a world where moorings have been shaken, morals corrupted, and millions of people exist about whom it can be said that they are souls adrift. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s an accurate one.
But, be that as it may, it isn’t all there is. And that’s because of Christmas. Not just a cheery few days to break the icicles off a dreary month or dampened spirits. It’s the reality of what took place in a stable two millennia ago. The world talks and sings of love it actually knows nothing about. God delivered love in Bethlehem that day. There is endless talk of peace in a world incapable of achieving it. Peace, true peace, arrived by special delivery among wondering shepherds and caroling angels. We hear platitudes about the goodness and fraternity of humankind that are more shallow rhetoric than reality. Goodwill—God’s goodwill, if you please—nestled in the arms of a young Jewish mother in the dusty little town we sing about.
The peace, joy, and goodwill He brought to all who would receive Him are ours to have. And with them, everything else—good, bad, or indifferent—becomes less relevant. Therefore, Christmas separates itself from every other season of the year. Why? Because the Incarnation is indispensable. Without His coming, we are irreparably lost.