What is the meaning of Christmas? For many, it means parties and dances, pantomimes and nativity plays, trees with decorative lights, holly and mistletoe, stockings and presents, cards and letters, Santa Claus and reindeer, frost and snow, pudding and mince pies, dinner with turkey and Brussels sprouts, etc.
But Christmas is not about all the above! It is, as the Apostle John puts it, about the Word becoming flesh and living among us.
The heart of Christmas story is also not about angels appearing to shepherds, nor about wise men following a star nor about the flight of Joseph and Mary to Egypt even though these events took place in history. These events are not essential to Christmas. Christmas would still be Christmas had there been no shepherds, and no wise men. The wonder of Christmas is that God became Man, ‘the Word became flesh’. That is the true wonder.
Sadly, the true meaning of Christmas can be lost even to Christians.
We can be so enamored with the ‘trimmings’ of the event that we forget about its essential element. This sad loss reminds me of a story I read some time ago. It is about a wealthy European family that decided to have their newborn baby baptized. Many guests were invited and arrived at the mansion dressed up for the elaborate occasion. After depositing their elegant wraps and coats on a bed in an upstairs room, the guests were entertained royally. Soon the time came for the main event – the infant’s baptism. But where was the baby? No one seemed to know. Everyone searched around frantically. Finally, someone recalled having seen him asleep on one of the beds. The baby was buried beneath a pile of coats, jackets, and furs. The object of that day’s celebration had been forgotten, neglected, and nearly smothered.
The baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas may also be hidden beneath the piles of stuff we load up during the season. We need to enter every Christmas asking, “Where’s the baby?” We need to rid ourselves of all the ‘stuff' and get to the heart of the Christmas story - the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In so doing, we will be challenged to respond in faith. For to all who receive the Christ, who believe in his name, he gives the power to become children of God (Jn. 1:12).
Faith is the act of ‘grasping reality’: and the reality in question is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Word made flesh. It is only then with the eye of faith that we can penetrate the fog of illusion and see the true wonder in Christmas.
Rev. Mark Tay