I wrote the article below for a Christian magazine put out by the religious organization through which my husband holds his ministerial license. It was published in the December, 2015 issue. I am sharing it as my blog post for those who don't have access to the magazine. Please enjoy.
Do You Know the Real Meaning of Christmas?
Kerri S. Wilson
Christmas is my favorite holiday. My memories of Christmas include playing in the snow, spending time with my family, taking time off from school or work, enjoying the beautiful decorations, eating a festive meal, experiencing the joy of purchasing the perfect gifts for my loved ones and the anticipation of opening the gifts purchased for me. Though many have similar nostalgic Christmas experiences, these celebrations and traditions do not reveal the real meaning of Christmas.
When I contemplate the real meaning of Christmas, the lyrics of the popular song entitled “Mary Did You Know” come to mind. The angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary and explained the identity and purpose of her baby’s birth and life, so she must have had a cognitive understanding of what her baby would become. But though she knew these things in her mind, the song asks if she understood in her heart. Through its questioning, the song exposes the profound reality of Christmas—God Almighty became flesh, sacrificed Himself and brought deliverance to humanity. But there is more to this story.
Do you know the real meaning of Christmas? Many of you have most likely heard and read the story of Christmas since you were a child. Though you may understand cognitively what Christmas means, do you know it in your heart? What does Christmas reveal to us?
The Christmas story reveals God’s selfless character. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word selfless as “having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself.” God’s act of becoming like us to deliver us from our own sinfulness demonstrates selflessness on a level that is unmatched. We experience God’s selflessness because of Christmas. Did you know?
The Christmas story not only demonstrates God’s ultimate example of selflessness, it also proves His love to be perfect. John 3:16 says, “For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Furthermore, John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” God’s love is complete; His love is absolute; His love is fearless; His love is as good as love can possibly be. Did you know because of Christmas we experience God’s perfect love?
Jesus’ birth, death, burial, and resurrection are the revelation of His selfless character and His demonstration of perfect love. His selfless act of redemption was born out of His perfect love for us. His perfect love for us was more powerful than His desire to preserve His own life. We know this is the real meaning of Christmas. However, there is more to Christmas than what most of us realize. We tend to miss the rest of what Christmas really means because we fail to recognize our own role in the Christmas story.
Did you know because of Christmas we too must become selfless and develop perfect love? Consider 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” The real meaning of Christmas includes our call as Christians to strive for Christlikeness. We are called to follow Christ’s example of selflessness and perfect love. However, when we consider Christlikeness on these terms, it seems to be an impossible goal for which to strive. How can we who are imperfect ever demonstrate selflessness and perfect love?
I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” Perfect love is the anecdote to fear, and fear must leave for love to be perfected. Fear drives us towards self-preservation. Our fear instinct motivates our need to save ourselves and makes it difficult for us to love the way Christ loves. But when we inquire of the Lord, listen to His voice and obey His instructions, and learn to depend on Him, we learn how to be like Him. We learn how to love like Him; we learn how to be selfless like Him; we learn how to be fearless like Him.
As God’s love is perfected within us, it drives out all fear and develops our sense of selflessness. With perfect love, we no longer fight fear. When we are fearless, we are selfless. When we are selfless, we are most like Christ. And, it is only when we are most like Christ that we are able to love perfectly. Christlikeness is born out of relationship with God. We can become like Christ because Christ became like us. This is possible because of Christmas.
Christmas is God’s ultimate gift to humanity. The real meaning of Christmas is the selfless Almighty God who is perfect love. And as we become like Him—selfless and full of perfect love—we complete the real meaning of Christmas. As we demonstrate Christlikeness, we give God’s ultimate gift to those desperate for redemption. We have hope beyond this life because of Christmas.
I want to be selfless. I want to be fearless. I want to be full of perfect love. I want to be like Him. Though the journey brings with it great struggle, it also brings much joy. There is no greater joy than being changed into the image of Christ. When I become like Christ—when I become selfless, fearless and full of perfect love, I reveal the purpose of Christmas to those whom Jesus came to deliver. This is the real meaning of Christmas.