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This time of year, you might notice signs or stickers that proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s absolutely true, and it’s a helpful reminder in a society that seems to spend most of our Christmas energy on the buying and exchanging gifts.
There’s nothing wrong with gift-giving! It’s a wonderful way to be generous, and generosity is a very good thing. But spending money isn’t the reason for Christmas. Jesus is, indeed, the reason for the season.
So let’s review the basics. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The word “Christmas” is 1,000 years old, and it means “Christ’s Mass.” The name reminds us that the worship service, or Mass, on Dec. 25 is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ.
If you don’t happen to know the full story, you can find a Bible online or on a bookshelf and read a few verses from the Gospel of Luke. Read the first 20 verses of the second chapter of Luke, and you’ll get to the center of the Christmas story.
This is the story with the angels, shepherd, and stable. Nativity scenes that you might see are based on this version of the Christmas story. But Christmas celebrates more than the historic event of Jesus’ birth some 2,000 years ago. Jesus is the reason for the season, but what is the meaning of Christ’s birth?
In the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, we read that Jesus is “the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus embodies for us the reality of God who is beyond our comprehension. Everything we need to know about God we can see in Jesus Christ, God’s only son.
And what do we see? Jesus was perfectly loving. He loved the “unlovable” people of his day: extortionists, collaborators, prostitutes and other notorious sinners. He brought healing and hope to a world that was just as sick and fearful as ours. He said that instead of hitting back, we should turn the other cheek when someone strikes us. He said that giving away our possessions is the best thing we can do with them.
Jesus said our two big tasks are to love God and love our neighbors. In case we missed the point, he taught us that our neighbors are… everyone. Love God, love people. That’s our job, said Jesus.
So this Jesus showed us a completely different way to live. But what about his birth? What can we learn about God from the Christmas story?
Jesus wasn’t born in a mighty palace, but in a humble village. The Good News of Jesus’ birth was told first to shepherds, not princes. Jesus birth was proclaimed not by royal decree, but by angels singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
Taken together, these facts of Jesus’ birth paint a picture for us. We see that God values humility over might. God values the lowly. God reaches out to the margins. God is loving, inclusive and radiant.
There’s a Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti that is often set to music. It begins, “Love came down at Christmas.” And that’s exactly right. Alongside our “Jesus is the reason for the season” stickers, we could place “Love is the reason for the season” stickers.
The good news of Christmas is that God loves us so very much that he sent his son into the world to offer grace, mercy, hope, healing and salvation. Christmas is all about love because Jesus is all about love.
By all means, let’s greet one another with a joyous, “Merry Christmas.” And let us love God and love our neighbor. Love is the best thing to celebrate about Christmas, and it is the best way to celebrate Christmas. It’s all about love.
It’s a good lesson for us to pay attention to. How has love shaped your life? How could you give the gift of love to others, whether friend or stranger?