Christmas is not about presents. It isn’t about family gatherings, trees, human love, happiness, or world peace.
Christmas is about the incarnation of God himself. It is, therefore, about the renewal of all of creation.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating with family, having a tree, showing love, being happy, or striving toward peace. In many ways these things point toward the renewal of all creation.
However, Christmas is not merely about these things, but about the rich abundance that lies behind these things.
Christmas is about the gospel. The gospel made real, physical, tangible, and complete.
The Christmas Gospel
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth through his spoken word. He made everything from nothing and at the end of his flurry of creative acts, he declared it all very good.
He even made two humans to be like him, and to represent him in miniature on the earth. They were made in his very image.
However, that didn’t last very long because the first humans, Adam and Eve, messed it up by disobeying the one rule that God had given them. They didn’t take God at his word; instead they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
As a result, God sent death into the world. Adam and Eve would surely die. So would all of their children and their children’s children.
God also cursed the ground to remind all humans that things aren’t the way they were supposed to be. Thorns, thistles, and other weeds make the process of making a living from the earth harder. They remind us of what is wrong with the world. They keep us hoping for something better that is to come.
The world got a glimpse of that better something a few thousand years ago in the form of a human child born in unlikely circumstances. That child was Jesus, God’s anointed one, and the Word of God himself.
The one who had created all things and who holds all things together stepped down into creation to become part of it and bear the curse of the whole creation to set it free from the penalty of sin.
According to Athanasius,
He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, when He had fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.
And in wiping away the effects of the curse from humans, Jesus also loosed the creation from the effects of sin.
Thus, “the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.”
This hasn’t yet taken effect in full.
Romans 8:19-23 tells us:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
The Christmas story is a historical account of how God made possible the redemption of all things from the effects of human sin. Both Luke and Matthew tell us what happened in a dusty Middle Eastern town two millennia ago, but their accounts also point beyond the details of the story to the hope that should invigorate our celebration.
Enjoy this Christmas. Enjoy the cookies, candy canes, ugly sweaters, and weird relatives. Enjoy the toys, the tinsel, and the many cultural accretions that have accumulated around the day.
Enjoy these things all the more because they point toward the greater hope we have in the coming renewal of all creation because Christ’s incarnation made possible the redemption of all things from the effects of sin.