By William R. Cunningham
Well it’s Christmas time again. It is the time of year where people go out and purchase gifts to give away to family and friends. It is the time of year where we gather together in homes to eat and fellowship and again share gifts. In some cases, it is a time where we pretend that everything is OK in our relationships and put a smile on our faces. Christmas is a time of year where there is joy and pain. Some people are joyous at this time of year whereas others get depressed. They are depressed not necessarily because of the Christmas season itself, but rather because something happened during this time of year that stirs up those painful memories. Perhaps a loved one died, or a relationship was broken. In any case, the joyous time of year for many is nothing but pain for others.
For some time beginning in the recent past as of the time of this writing, I have declared that Christmas as celebrated in America is not a Christian holiday. Technically Christmas is not something that began or is even a part of the Christian faith. However, after attending a Sunday School this morning, I think that I should not make such declarations. Not that my concerns about the holiday season have changed, rather, what my statements may mean to others may be misinterpreted. So, let me declare this. Christmas time for Christians is the time of year where we Christians celebrate or commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Again, this was not something started by Jesus Christ or His disciples.
It wasn’t until about AD 350 when the church instituted the celebration of Christmas. Pope Julius I chose December 25th as the date to celebrate Jesus’ birth to "Christianize" the many pagan festivals and merrymaking that occurred during this time of year. There are a few theories as to why December 25th was chosen. We should realize that no one really knows the birth date of Jesus Christ. Christians only celebrate it on December 25th.
The Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth is only one aspect of the celebrations and what goes on during this time of year. In any case we commemorate the birth of Christ. So, what does that mean? What is significant about the birth of Christ especially since the early disciples did not celebrate it, but rather held the day of Jesus’ crucifixion as an important day? The significance is that Jesus was born of a woman and lived as a human on the earth. I could discuss the concept of Jesus being fully human and fully deity, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Jesus was an historical figure that walked the earth in the first century. Christians believe him to be the son of God and that he died for our sins and was resurrected from the dead (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). This event is critical the salvation that we can all obtain from God through faith in Jesus Christ, i.e., that he died for our sins and rose from the dead. Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to die for our sins. After all, if Jesus wasn’t born, then he couldn’t die for our sins either.
With that said, I celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ because it led to his death, his resurrection, and my salvation as a gift from God. I can stand before God as if I never sinned because Jesus died for my sins. That is not to say that I now have a license to sin, but rather, I have been freed from the penalty of sin. My disposition regarding sin is different now. The sin nature is the antithesis of God’s Spirit who lives inside of me. Therefore, my disposition is to not sin, not find a justification why I can sin.
I can now stop condemning myself or receiving the condemnation of others. No one is condemned who are in Christ Jesus (See Romans 8:1). Thank God for the birth of Jesus Christ. Thank God that he died for my sins. Thank God that he rose from the dead, showing that he was indeed the son of God (Romans 1: 4).
I hope that you would have a Blessed Christmas season remembering what Jesus did for us. Amen.