Another Christmas Day has come and gone (yesterday, December 25, 2014). But for the majority of Christians the Christmas season continues until January 6 when we begin the season of Epiphany. Just a day after Christmas Day, I ask the indulgence of my readers and myself to reflect on the essence of the Christmas event and try to appropriate some of its profound implications for successful living.
Christmas is all about Jesus Christ and his being born into the world as its Savior. There are issues about the exact date on which Jesus was born. For me knowing the exact date is not as important as understanding and appropriating the significance of his birth. The focus should be on why he was born regardless of whatever date it was or the date Church has chosen.
Since creation God has always revealed himself in various ways and means throughout the world: through nature, prophets, sages and special events. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son”, to borrow the words of Hebrews 12:1, his perfect revelation of himself. Karl Barth once said that Jesus Christ is the mirror into which we look to see who God is like.
God sent his son to redeem lost mankind. Therefore Christmas celebrates God’s greatest gift to mankind, the gift of his one and only son, Jesus. The death of Jesus on the cross demonstrates God’s supreme love for mankind. Jesus came into the world to save and to show us how to live a life of obedience. He came to bring to all, who respond to his offer, the good news of forgiveness, peace and goodwill, giving for the good of others, and transforming grace.
Christmas is good news for those who respond to God in faith and obedience. Let this Christmas be a time when each one of us can take the time to reflect and honestly seek to apply some of what Christmas is about. There is too much hatred and ill-will in us, around us and in the world (as there were in the time of Jesus’ birth). His birth announces peace and goodwill towards all. Can we endeavor to be peace and goodwill promoters in ourselves, with our spouses, children, households, communities, nation and the wider world? We should never be part of the problem but the solution. Let us seek the welfare of others and never their downfall. It is in doing so that we find genuine peace and joy in our own lives.
Let this Christmas be the beginning of learning to forgive others who hurt us. We all do countless ugly things (in conscious and unconscious ways) that deeply hurt God and yet he forgives us and sends his son to make us better persons. We must learn to forgive others if we are to benefit from his forgiveness (Matthew 6:12: Luke 11:4). The parable of the servant who was forgiven much debt that he owed his master but refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him much less speaks volumes to our need to forgive one another (Matthew 18:23-35).
Forgiveness is hard but necessary for our own health and the health of the family and the society. It promotes good relationships among ourselves and with our Creator. It makes living together possible, easier and better. Forgiveness also helps the one who forgives. It removes the heavy burden of the spirit of un-forgiveness. It ensures good health for the forgiving person and makes it easier to live and do business with such a person.
We all need transformation because of our sinfulness and the sinful environment in which we live. Genuine change comes when we agree that some things are wrong about us and that we need help. Jesus came to help us change for the better. He gives us grace to bear beyond our normal capacity and to accept better what we cannot change, and to do by far beyond our human ability. We depend on God and yet do all we can in reliance upon his infinite power. Knowing that he is with us every step of the way and working alongside us motivates us to give our all. God’s abundant grace and our cooperation with his grace in making the most of the opportunities and challenges we face daily make us better persons and make a better family, community and society.
Christmas is all about God’s love: forgiveness, peace and goodwill, giving and sharing some of what we are and have. Let this Christmas be a time of giving something of ourselves for the good of the family, the community and world around us. Let each of one of us be an ambassador of peace, forgiveness, sharing, and permitting God’s free grace to transform us and through us others who come in contact with us.