My wife loves the Hallmark channel on TV because of all the feel-good movies they show. Even though I hate to admit it, I kind of like it too.
It seems like they show non-stop Christmas movies all December long leading up to Christmas. Though I gotta say towards the end there I was getting a little burned out on all the Santa Clause movies and the “save Christmas” themes.
I mean they’re good stories and all. Well, most of them are anyway. But while gift giving and generosity are Christmasy, the day isn’t about Santa. It’s about Emmanuel, God with us.
Thinking About Christmas
The whole thing got me to thinking on what Christmas is all about. Really when it comes down to it, the Christmas message can be summed up in one verse from the Bible that is so familiar to us it can be a little cliché even.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.— John 3:16
A Closer Look
As I was thinking about it I started to look at this verse bit by bit. In doing so I began to see the true meaning of Christmas much more clearly.
For God – It all starts with God. Christmas is His deal, His plan. God started it, He’ll keep it going so we don’t have to “make” it happen. We have the privilege of joining Him in what He’s doing.
so loved – Love is what motivated God at the first Christmas. When we think about God’s kind of love it can get a little overwhelming. God is patient and kind. He is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. He does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. God never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. God will last forever! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) That’s what God was thinking when He send Jesus at Christmas.
the world – This one hangs up a lot of Christians. God doesn’t just love the chosen few. He loves the entire world, even those who completely reject him. And for those who might doubt that “the world” means “the whole world” look at 1 John 2:2 that says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” God loves everyone. Period. Full stop.
that He gave – Christmas is first of all a gift. As such it is free for us to receive. Since it it is a gift there is no way we can pay for it. But we are free to refuse the gift. If we try to earn it somehow then we are in fact refusing it as given.
His only begotten Son – The gift that God gave was the single most valuable thing in existence, in all of creation an all of heaven combined. The gift was so valuable that if you put all the gold and all the resources beside every other person in the entire univers on one side and Jesus on the other side, Jesus is still more valuable. God’s love for us, for you, is stronger than his attachment to his most valued treasure. Stop and think about that for a moment.
that whoever believes in Him – There is a catch, though. God leaves it up to us whether to receive the gift or not. If he didn’t give us the option to refuse it wouldn’t be a gift but a demand. We receive God’s gift by believing in Jesus. That’s the only thing required on our end. It isn’t much. But without it we don’t get the benefit of the gift. This part causes problems for some folks too, unfortunately.
should not perish – This is the road we were on, doom and destruction. God offers us an exit ramp from this road. But he leaves it up to us to choose to take the exit. If we refuse the out then we are choosing ultimate doom and destruction. God loves us enough to respect our choice in spite of the pain it causes us and those around us.
but have everlasting life. – Many misinterpret this phrase as meaning that we’ll have a good time in the hereafter. But for now we’re destined for a life of suffering and pain. Or they see it as simply living with all the pain they have now for ever and ever.
Well it does include our existence into eternity. But it is so much more than that. Here’s part of the definition of that word that is translated “life”:
of the absolute fulness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, and through him both to the hypostatic “logos” and to Christ in whom the “logos” put on human nature
“The absolute fullness of life.”
That’s what God gave us on that first Christmas. Talk about the ultimate Christmas gift!
Through belief in Jesus we can have the absolute fullness of life right now and also in the hereafter.