The real meaning of Christmas?

How often are Christians called to remember ‘the real meaning of Christmas’? Growing up, I felt a low-level guilt in enjoying the food, the presents, the fun and the other festivities. 

Perhaps God wanted me to soberly reflect on the birth of Jesus?

There is some truth in that. It’s good to look back to God coming in human flesh – being born into the mess of a stable in order to bear my mess. And that of the whole world. 

Look forward

But having dealt with that mess on the cross, Jesus now calls us to look forward to when he will appear a second time. And he’s promised a banquet to celebrate.

Which doesn’t sound too dissimilar to tucking into that bacon-dressed turkey, pigs in blankets and goose fat-glazed roasties, right?

‘Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.’ (Hebrews 9:28)

The real meaning of Christmas is that Christ has come and done what he came to do. Your sins are forgiven. You’ve received the gift of God’s grace. You’re on your way to the banquet. 

The real meaning of Christmas doesn’t primarily look back; it’s future oriented. So how should we celebrate?

Enjoy the reason for the season

By enjoying a little taste of the banquet to come. By enjoying the feast. By celebrating. By giving and receiving gifts, not with guilt, but with joy in our hearts. 

The taste of the bacon-dressed turkey or the enjoyment of a well-chosen gift isn’t a distraction from the real meaning of Christmas. It’s a celebration of it.