Will the dinner table conversations this Christmas center on shopping, politics, faith, or even the weather? Regardless, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
During Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. As the Apostle John tells us in his first chapter of his Gospel, in John 1:18, “No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
That word ‘explained,’ means ‘exegetes’ or ‘brings forth.’ If we want to understand God the Father, we must do so through seeing and experiencing Jesus, the Son. And He came to us at Christmas.
The ‘Christmas Story’ isn’t only found in the Gospels that give the narration of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Later, the risen and ascended Christ sent letters to each of the seven churches in Asia Minor, and they are found in the second and third chapters of Revelation. In the first letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus first commends them for what they are doing right—their hard work for the Gospel, their steadfastness, their doctrinal orthodoxy. But then he issues his condemnation, that they had ‘left their first love.’ He warns them, ‘Remember, therefore, from which thou art fallen and repent.’ Or he says he will come and take their light away.
Jesus commends them for working hard and being faithful, but hard work can become drudgery when it is done for duty sake.
Doctrinal orthodoxy can become cold and barren and bitter when it isn’t warmed by love. As Christians we should do and say and think the right thing, not just because it is the right thing to do, say, and think. We should do what we do because we love Jesus, and we want to feel His pleasure with our obedience. We should do, say, and think the right thing, not primarily because it will make us happy, which it will in the end, but because Jesus will be pleased and take pleasure with our obedience. Let’s resolve to keep the first things first, namely, loving Jesus because He first loved us and died for us, and now we seek to please, honor, and serve Him because we love Him.
I have found that, especially at Christmastime, cherished hymns express best the meaning of what Christians celebrate each December 25. As we celebrate with this Christmas Day, reflect on the words of the Christmas classic, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”:
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of the earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.