The Meaning and Purpose of the Christmas Season
At the first Christmas there were no carols or serenading, no Christmas trees or decorations, no Christmas lights, no sorrel and ginger beer, no black cake, roast beef nor ham, no parang or nine morning’s festival, no changing of curtains and furniture, no Christmas sales or bargains, no barrels or parcels. People went about their business and day to day activities as they were accustomed. It was in the midst of social, political, economic and religious challenges, in the stillness of the night in a lonely place the Christ child was born. Luke the gospel writer expresses it this way:
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)
As we reflect on the first Christmas there is a sense that the Apostles, gospel writers and early Church were convinced that God enters into human experience and history to carry out God’s mission in the world. They believed that the main focus of this mission is the salvation of the world that has been revealed through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Consequently, those who believe and trust in him, those who are his disciples are called to participate in this mission and to make disciples.
As we participate in this mission it is important to note that it is God who creates the opportunities, and who provides the avenues and openings through which we faithfully engage in ministry and carry out God’s mission.
The various amenities, features, niceties, attractions, festivities and services which now form part of the way in which we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Christ-child have all helped to give expression to our identification and responsiveness to the meaning and purpose of the Christmas season. In the midst of advancing, promoting and expanding these expressions we need to reflect on the truth of Christmas as presented to us by the Apostles, gospel writers and early church. Matthew presents it this way:
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah* took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1: 18-21)
This expresses the love of God for his creation of which human beings are a part. For in spite of us frail creatures putting ourselves in the place of God and by so doing have spoilt, destroyed and endangered the paradise, of which God had given humankind dominion. Yet God chose to redeem and save us rather than bestowing his wrath upon us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Christmas is a season of love, giving and sharing and also of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. It is a season which Christians celebrate once a year, to emphasise and reinforce the need for people to change their mindset from following and succumbing to worldly influences and passions and to acknowledge their need of a savior who is Jesus Christ. The spirit of love, joy, fellowship, sharing and caring especially for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, is one which must permeate our lives. Christmas calls us to make this a way of life not only during this season but always, for Christ’s work of salvation has no limits.
Let us this Christmas individually and collectively reflect on ways in which we have been giving ourselves to the ways of Jesus Christ: saying sorry and apologizing to husband, wife, companion, child, friend, co-worker when we are wrong; treating our children and spouse with love and respect; embracing, befriending and assisting those of a different political persuasion; showing appreciation to dedicated employees; sharing profits with them. Forgiving someone who has betrayed us; spending quality time with family; doing good to those who have hurt us; counselling, correcting or mentoring a young man/woman who consistently make wrong choices, or who is planning some evil; promoting and facilitating programmes and activities which foster and cultivate skills that enhance peaceful conflict resolution; being a part of and participating in the activities of a community/church group which works for the advancement, protection, wellbeing and development of people and the environment; advocating for someone who has been treated shamefully; ensuring that we don’t encroach on our neighbour’s property; worshipping with fellow Christians regularly, week by week or more often according to opportunity, and studying the Holy scriptures…
The first Christmas had no carols or serenading; no Christmas tree or decorations; no Christmas lights; no sorrel and ginger beer; no black cake; roast beef nor ham; no parang or nine morning’s festival; no changing of curtains and furniture; no Christmas sales or bargains; no barrels or parcels. These add-ons, trimmings and embellishments have their place, and we must ensure that they do not overshadow the main focus and meaning of Christmas.
“‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” (Matthew 1:20-21)
The SVG Christian Council takes this opportunity to wish you a blessed and holy Christmas.