'The Purpose of Christmas'
The following article is an excerpt from Rick Warren's The Purpose of Christmas.
Christmas is a party. Specifically, it's a birthday party — for Jesus — and birthdays are meant to be celebrated. It's why we say "Merry Christmas!"
Ironically, at most Christmas parties the person whose birthday we're supposed to be celebrating is completely ignored. He's never even mentioned. Although Jesus is the reason for the season, he's often overlooked or merely mentioned along with Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, the Grinch, elves, and a long list of celebrated fictional characters.
As I was writing this little book, I decided to take a survey of Christmas shoppers. I asked, "What are you celebrating this Christmas?" Most answers had nothing to do with Jesus:
- "I'm celebrating that I made it through another year."
- "I'm celebrating being home with my family."
- "I got a Christmas bonus."
- "My son is home from Iraq."
- "The candidate I voted for got elected."
- "I'm celebrating that I've finished all my shopping."
- "I'm not celebrating anything. I'm just trying to survive."
Preparing for Christmas can be a lot of work, especially for moms. With the pressure of buying gifts, sending greeting cards, decorating our homes, putting up lights, cooking, attending parties, and cleaning up afterward, we have little time to actually enjoy the meaning of Christmas.
The first purpose of Christmas is celebration! We learn this from the angel's opening statement to the shepherds of Bethlehem. God had wonderful news for us that would cause us all to rejoice, celebrate, and throw a party: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10 (NIV)
The good news of Christmas is worth celebrating for three reasons. It is personal: "I bring YOU." It is positive: "GOOD news of great joy." And it is universal: "for ALL the people." It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, where you've been, or where you're headed — this news is for you.
A national magazine used to carry a feature called "News You Can Use." I always read that section first. The angel brought us news we can use. It's the best news in the world:
God loves you!
God is with you!
God is for you!
Christmas is a time to celebrate that God loves you!
The most famous statement in the Bible is Jesus' explanation of why God sent him to earth: "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
The entire reason for Christmas is the love of God. God loves you so much that he came to earth as a human so you could get to know him and learn to trust him and love him back. Theologians call this the Incarnation. God became one of us, a human being, so we could understand what he is really like.
God has given us, as human beings, the capacity to know him in ways animals can't. He created us in his image, which includes the ability to enjoy a personal relationship with him. Then he took the initiative to send Jesus so we could understand his love and our need for him.
Of course, we know a little about God by simply observing his creation. For instance, by looking at nature we know that our Creator loves variety: he created an incredibly diverse universe. Think of the limitless array of plants, animals, rock formations, snowflakes, and people. No two human beings, even twins, are exactly alike. God doesn't make clones or copies. Every one of us is an original. After you were born, God broke the mold.
By surveying natural phenomena, we also know that God is powerful and organized, and that he loves beauty. We all know that God must enjoy watching us enjoy what he's created. Otherwise, why would he give us so many ways to enjoy it? He gave us taste buds, then filled the world with incredible flavors like chocolate and cinnamon and all the other spices. He gave us eyes to perceive color and then filled the world with a rainbow of shades. He gave us sensitive ears and then filled the world with rhythms and music. Your capacity for enjoyment is evidence of God's love for you. He could have made the world tasteless, colorless, and silent. The Bible says that God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." He didn't have to do it, but he did, because he loves us.