On December 25th, our nation and most of the world celebrates a holiday. Not just any holiday – like President’s Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, and so on – but a holiday that brings about massive amounts of change. It is as if the holidays on the calendar build throughout the year to a crescendo/finale/climax with the Christmas holiday. It is a holiday that changes retail store schedules. Beginning with Black Friday we see extended retail hours in the weeks leading up to Christmas and then most retail stores are closed on Christmas Day, regardless of what day of the week it is.
It is a holiday that changes freeway and interstate traffic patterns. We see people in cars heading to malls, stores, heading out of town to visit family and friends. It is a holiday that changes airport traffic flow and patterns. Christmas holiday travel is one of the two busiest seasons for air travel up to Christmas Eve, followed by relative silence and calm on Christmas Day. If you want to have plenty of space on a plane, try flying on Christmas Day.
It is a holiday that changes work schedules. Most people are off on Christmas Day or take off. It is a holiday that changes school schedules. Does any school hold class on Christmas Day? It is a holiday that changes spending patterns.Some people save money all year to spend during the Christmas season. Some go into debt to spend money on Christmas gifts. Online shopping during Christmas season always results in increased online sales.
It is a holiday that changes family routines. We can see families gathering from near and far for the Christmas holiday. It is a holiday that changes sobriety levels, with varying degrees of inebriation experienced as more people choose to ‘indulge’ during the Christmas holiday. It is a holiday that changes attitudes of people. Even people who are routinely mean become nicer and friendlier for a little while during the Christmas holiday.
It is a holiday that changes giving patterns. People give to others when they normally do not. People give themselves gifts. People give to churches and non-profit organizations leading up to the Christmas holiday and year end giving.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we must be careful to not allow ourselves to get swallowed up in the hoopla, allowing this special day to be reduced to nothing more than a holiday. Mistletoe, Christmas trees & lights, Santa Claus suits and the like may attend the holiday, but, you see, Christmas is more than a holiday. Gospel recording artist Hezekiah Walker recorded a song with lyrics by David Frazier entitled More Than a Holiday:
“More than a holiday,
more than lights that glitter and shine away.
More than a glistening snow,
more than just a mistletoe.
For unto us a child is born,
for unto us a Son is given.
For unto us Emmanuel has come,
a chance for all mankind to be forgiven.
A change in me He’s made,
I am saved today,
you see, Christmas to me is more than a holiday.
You see, Christmas to me is more than a holiday.”
So how can we make Christmas more than a holiday?
Reflect on the Christ Who Came to Be With Us (Matthew 1:23)
One of the most important human achievements was man going to the moon. However, far more significant is the fact that God came down to earth to be with us. In the busyness of the season, make some time to reflect on the significance of God coming to earth in the form of a man. I encourage you to take the initiative to gather your family and friends together and read the Christmas story from Matthew or Luke. Prolific author Max Lucado put it this way: “Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.”
Though you may have reflected on this story many times, it is always fresh and refreshing to reflect on…
- Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophesies like Isaiah 7:14 (quoted in Matthew 1:23) and
Isaiah 9:6 (NASB2020): “For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
- Jesus coming down through 42 generations (Matthew 1:17).
- Jesus being born of a virgin who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
- Jesus, the Word becoming flesh, wrapping divinity in the dust-like garment of human flesh (John 1:14).
- Jesus being born in Bethlehem, in a manger, in an animal trough to identify with the lowliest of humankind (Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2).
So, remember to make Christmas more than a holiday by reflecting on the Christ who came to be with us. When I reflect, then I rejoice, and you will too!
The fact that God came down to be with us in Jesus Christ suggests another way we can make Christmas more than a holiday.
Receive the Christ Who Wants to Be In Us (John 1:12)
When you reflect on the Christ who came down to be with us, it leads to a question. Why did He come down to be with us? The answer is Jesus came to be with us in order that He might live in us as Savior, Lord, and King. Jesus becomes ours and we become His when by faith we invite Him to come live within us. John 1:12 (NASB2020) says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. Jesus is the absolute best Christmas gift anyone can receive!
Consider Romans 8:10-11: “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
These two verses mention the words ‘in you’ three times. In Colossians 1:27, the Bible says the mystery among the Gentiles is “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in us gives us hope (confident expectation) for today and tomorrow. 1 John 4:4 tells us that as believers in Jesus Christ, we have ‘The greater one’ living in us and He is greater than everyone else! Christ in us means we can experience victory over the evil one.
Once you have received Jesus Christ who wants to be in you, then your joy, your privilege, and your obligation is to share this glorious message with others, offering them the same opportunity to receive the Christ who wants to be in us. As you give gifts to family members and friends this Christmas, would you also offer them the best Christmas gift, free and without charge to them, yet costly to God, who gave His only Son? It takes a lot of love to sacrifice your only child for someone else and in fact Romans 5:8 reminds us that God demonstrated His great love for all mankind, even while we were sinners, when He gave His Son, who sacrificed His life on the cross.
And so, we see that the Christ who came down to be with us, also wants to be in us. Allow me to take this progression one step further. Because Christmas is more than a holiday, Reflect on the Christ Who Came to be With Us, Receive the Christ who wants to be in us, and…
Rely on the Christ Who is For Us (Romans 8:31)
It is possible for God to be with us, and for Him to not be in us, which then makes Him against us, because of rejecting Jesus. But there is good news! If you allow Jesus Christ to be in you, then He is certainly for you. In a mean world such as ours, with so many people who can be against you, it is important to have someone significant who is for you. God is more than significant, He is the omnipotent, incomparable, unrivaled God of the universe. Knowing that He is for you should result in you relying on Him and not on yourself.
I confess that far too many times I have chosen to rely on myself rather than on our unlimited God. Perhaps you can identify with me. In every instance of choosing to rely on myself rather than on God, I end up identifying with the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, who also ended up “…burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in (rely on) ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
God’s track record is very impressive and convincing of His ability to be for you when you rely upon Him. The Psalmist made a bold declaration in Psalm 118:6-8: “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.”
It is nice to know that your family and friends are for you. It is even better to know that God is with you, in you, and for you!
Paul said it really does not matter who is against you when God is for you. In Romans 8:31-32 he said: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
My hope for you this Christmas and every day is that you will reflect on the Christ who came to be with us, receive the Christ who wants to be in us, and rely on the Christ who is for us. In so doing, you make Christmas more than just a holiday.