The other day I asked my three youngest children to answer the question, “What is Christmas?”
The youngest, (four years old), said it is about baby Jesus. Her twelve year old sister said it is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. My eight year old son (the strong silent type), replied, “What she said.”
Each of them is right; Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the Messiah as a baby. However, there is more to the story than the arrival of the Son of God, born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough for his first night’s rest.
The Christian holiday of Christmas is a celebration that replaced a variety of pagan festivals and in fact adopted many of the practices of those pagan holidays. Evergreen wreaths and trees, gift giving, feasting and the burning of the Yule log: all of these have roots in non-Christians festivals which took place around the end of December. But that’s okay. These familiar Christmas traditions actually serve to remind us of what Christmas is all about.
You see, the coming of the Christ – the coming of God as a human – was a declaration of war. It was an invasion by the Kinsman Redeemer in order to conquer Satan and restore Mankind to his rightful place in the cosmos. The war was finished about thirty-three years after Jesus was born when He died on the cross and then rose again. His blood paid the price to redeem us from the clutches of Satan and His resurrection restored Humankind to the position of vice-regent in this universe. Now, all those who are found in Jesus, are seated in the heavens in Him (Ephesians 1:3, 2:6), and we have been given the responsibility to labor in this life to manifest the already existing kingdom of God in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30, Philippiams 2:12-13, 3:12-16 and many more). Remember, we do not earn our salvation through our effort to manifest the rule of Christ; there is nothing we can do to contribute to the grace of God in salvation. However, we do have the responsibility to live up to our high calling in Christ. He has conquered and so we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), children of the most high God (Ephesians 5:1).
Therefore, we should view the divergent cultural aspects of the Christmas celebration as evidence that Christ’s invasion was successful. Satan has been stripped of the spoils of war and they are now used to glorify the Messianic King. Just as the plunder of pagan Jericho was used to beautify the tabernacle, likewise the heathen customs of the winter festivals are now the property of the King of Kings. No longer is the furniture of creation soiled by the ungodly; now it is used to remind us that our Great Kinsman Redeemer has driven the enemy from the field of battle.
So, as you trim your tree, hang your wreath or fasten a sprig of mistletoe to the lintel, take a moment to consider the reasons you may do so without shame: Christ has cast down Satan, rent the curtain and entered the Holy of Holies clothed in human flesh. It is because Jesus has paid the price of redemption and ratified the eternal covenant with His blood. It is because the Everlasting Son became the Son of Man and restored Humankind to his place of grandeur. And it is because the followers of Christ in times past understood His Lordship and were willing to bring their sphere of influence under the authority of King Jesus.
This is what Christmas is all about. It is about a baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago – and so much more.