As we begin the month of December and step into the Advent season, it’s essential to ponder upon the true meaning of Christmas. We’re about to be knee-deep in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, and it’ll be tempting to get caught up in the trappings of the season—gifts, decorations, and festive cheer. These things aren’t bad, but amidst all this, do we truly grasp the heart of Christmas? Do we acknowledge God and the divine significance of this celebration?
A Fire On a Television Screen
Take a moment and read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. It’s a familiar narrative for many. It’s a scene both simple and profound. You’ll read of shepherds tending their flock, an angelic visitation, and a celestial declaration: “Glory to God in the highest!” This phrase encapsulates the crux of the Christmas message—one that often gets obscured by the glitz and glamour of the season.
In our culture, and amid our modern-day celebrations, we might find ourselves chasing the elusive “Christmas feeling,” a sense of awe and wonder often linked to this holiday. But without understanding the truth behind this sentiment, we risk attaching it to superficial elements—lights, decorations, and the mythical aura of the season. If we do this, we will quickly miss the deeper significance.
Consider this: Christmas, without Christ and devoid of the biblical foundation, is akin to a fire depicted on a television screen. Our Communications Team had this portrayal on their office TV a few years ago, and our staff would jokingly wander in and put their hands up to it like it was going to produce heat. It looked right, of course, but it became a big joke in our office because clearly, the screen wouldn’t produce any heat!
A fire on a television screen generates a semblance of warmth and festivity yet lacks the inherent substance to truly deliver the essence of a fire. It’s the same with a Christmas bereft of Christ and the Bible. Glory, peace, joy, and hope will not truly resonate within us during Christmas if we aren’t acknowledging God’s central role. As humans were created to worship and glorify, we will inadvertently direct our reverence and adoration elsewhere.
Transforming Fear Into Peace
The narrative of the shepherds in Luke paints a vivid picture—one that resonates even in today’s context. It’s intriguing that the divine announcement did not transpire in a regal palace among influential figures but unfolded before humble shepherds, often marginalized in society. This beautifully illustrates the inclusive nature of Christ’s birth—a profound reminder that the message of Christmas is for everyone, transcending boundaries and societal hierarchies. The fear experienced by the shepherds upon encountering the glory of God serves as a poignant reflection of our human response to the divine. When God’s presence is manifested, it elicits a sense of awe and, yes, a tinge of fear. It’s akin to the feeling we experience when realizing our shortcomings, recognizing unfinished tasks, or facing our failures. It’s akin to the feeling we experience with our fathers when we stand in their presence aware of our deficiencies. But here’s where the beauty of the Christmas message unfolds—it transforms this fear into peace.
The angel’s proclamation brings tidings of great joy, emphasizing the birth of a Savior—Jesus Christ. Their message, what the Bible is getting us to see, is that even though the logical thing for all of us to experience when we encounter God is fear, we don’t have to be afraid. We can have peace because of the gospel. God is holy, and sinful people are never going to stand in His presence. There was a chasm that we could never cross. The blood of bulls and rams would never atone for sin. But God came in the flesh so that He could die for the sins of the world. This act of God incarnate, born into humanity’s humblest form, signifies a profound truth: amidst our flaws and imperfections, God extends an invitation to embrace peace with Him through Christ’s sacrificial love.
The shepherds’ reaction—glorifying and praising God—serves as a compelling example for us. It highlights the pivotal role of acknowledging and exalting God’s glory in our lives. To glorify God isn’t merely a religious notion; it’s about recognizing His manifest presence and acknowledging His greatness. As I’ve said in sermons before, acknowledging is not just about knowing. It’s about showing that you know. To glorify God is to respond to God in every area of our lives with sincere praise and adoration.
Bring Glory to God
In the frenzy of the holiday season, our culture tends to seek the transcendent, the spiritual, and the awe-inspiring, often bypassing the true source of these aspirations—God Himself. When we divorce these aspirations from their divine origin, we grasp at superficial substitutes that offer a fleeting semblance of fulfillment. The call this Christmas season is simple yet profound: Bring glory to God. It’s a recognition that when we fail to glorify God, we inadvertently elevate something else—material possessions, societal norms, or ephemeral sensations—as the object of our worship. Yet, the heart of Christmas beckons us to direct our awe and reverence towards God, acknowledging His unmatched greatness and the immeasurable gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Attune Your Heart to a Divine Melody
For those amidst a personal journey of understanding faith or exploring the deeper meaning of Christmas, consider this season as an opportunity not to be spent in awe of superficial elements, but to ponder upon the profound reality of Christ’s birth and the offer of peace and redemption He extends to all.
To those who have embraced the faith, let us not allow the blessings in our lives to overshadow the Giver. Let us ensure that the weight of God’s glory surpasses all other gifts or joys, recognizing that everything we have is a gift from His gracious hand. This Christmas, amidst the festivities and celebrations, may our hearts be attuned to the divine melody of “Glory to God in the highest.” Let’s embrace the true meaning of Christmas by acknowledging the significance of Christ’s birth and giving all honor and praise to the God who brings peace, joy, and hope into our lives. As we journey through this season, may our lives resound with a chorus of gratitude and adoration, acknowledging that the ultimate gift of Christmas is not found in presents under a tree but in the presence of a Savior who offers everlasting peace.
– Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)