The true Gift of Christmas

Christmas blessings! It is the time of year when we are reminded that Salvation came in the form of an Infant. That God felt compelled to send a Child Who would grow and experience all that we as humans do. Born to a young woman, Jesus came into this world the same way we all do, fragile and needing to be cared for and nurtured. As a young Child, He experienced the same challenges facing our youth today, even the trials of relocation and being an immigrant, leaving friends behind to learn a new language and culture. In His adult years, Jesus experienced the issues we sometimes face, the death of a friend, rejection, mistreatment, and being “crucified” for His teachings and beliefs. But throughout His life and ministry, the message was and still is one of love and hope. 

A hope that we find reflected in the Scripture readings during Advent, and the very fact that His birth occurred in the dead of winter; a time where little grows and darkness looms. His birth was the bright light in the midst of the barren darkness, and continues to brighten this season. But it is so much more than just a simple message of hope, it is our Salvation; it is a reminder that we are loved in ways that hold no measure. That we are cherished children of God worthy and deserving of so much. 

Like the people of Jesus’ time, we, too, are dealing with harsh treatment of our fellow man, we see conditions that need attention, but lack the man-power or funding to exact change. There is so much turmoil, political unrest and upheaval, and nations and religious factions vying for the spotlight — not much has changed in the past 2,000 years. Yet the message rings as loud and clear today, as it did so many years ago on that cold winter’s night. We are not lost or forgotten; we have not been abandoned; we are very much held in the “palm of His hand”; and He has not left us orphaned. 

On the third Sunday of Advent we were reminded that, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Mt 1:18-24). Emmanuel –— a reminder that we are not alone, that God is with us, standing beside us, even when all seems bleak and lifeless. Our Liturgies echo this sentiment and are filled with the songs that remind us to make ready and prepare for His coming, for the birth of the Kings of kings.

In the midst of all this dark and cold, we hear not only the songs of preparing, we also hear songs of joy, love and hope. Songs that fill our homes, autos, or wherever we may be listening, with promise and light. There is one Christmas song that is so different than many you might be familiar with, but yet bears a strong message. “It’s About the Cross,” by the Ball Brothers, begins with the verse, “It’s not just about the manger where the Baby lay,” and after a few more stanzas, goes into the refrain. This is where we are reminded of why Jesus came in the first place, with the words, “It’s about the cross — It’s about my sin — It’s about how Jesus came to be born once -— So that we could be born again.” Very powerful and poignant reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, and why Jesus became the ultimate gift that Christmas morn so many years ago. 

Even our Liturgical calendar takes us from Advent into Lent, a reminder that Jesus came to change our thinking and way of life, making visible the love God has for us. A love that manifested into a mission resulting in the ultimate sacrifice of laying down His life for all of us. In the second half of the verse you hear: “It’s about the stone that was rolled away, so that you and I could have real life someday.” “Real life,” which simply means, Jesus overcame the ultimate enemy to give us eternal life. So not only was the ultimate gift about love and compassion, but it was about setting us free as well, breaking the bonds of death. 

Therefore in the true Spirit of Christmas we must remember that not only were we given Salvation in the form of an Infant, but in the message of the cross as well.  That the Baby Boy lying in a manger came to pay off a debt, the cost of our sins, and its magnitude can be seen in the weight of the cross. God’s love born of an innocent Babe, Who came to give, not receive, and Whose life by His very presence, became the best present at Christmas. The one true gift lying in the manger, wrapped in simple swaddling clothes — worth more than any gift man could ever bestow.

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas and a joyous and prosperous New Year.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts