Imagine someone asking you that question. What is Christmas? Someone that had never heard of it before. Someone who has never experienced it before.
Suppose an alien knocked on the door one day. From a great, far distant planet. We shall call him “Allen.” You know, because he is an alien.
Allen kind of glows in the dark and has very large eyes. He wants to know all about life on Earth. In the course of your conversation, he asks about the tree that is beautifully decorated and sitting in full view of the front, living room window. “It is beautiful,” he says. “What is it?”
“It’s a Christmas tree,” you answer.
“Why is it a Christmas tree and not just a regular tree?”
“It is a regular tree, but it is decorated for Christmas,” you explain.
“What is Christmas?”
Should we go with the simple explanation that it is a really important holiday? Or the time of year where the greed that courses its way across America truly gets exposed? Or do we sit him down and explain who Jesus is?
Quick, in 10 words or less, what is Christmas?
What makes Christmas so special?
What is it to you?
There is a virtual plethora of Christmas related “things” that we each have in our lives. And most of them are amazing and beautiful. From Santa Claus to many colored lights to craft fairs to travel and family, we could go on for days about all the traditions we have wrapped up in Christmas. Pun intended. And that’s just the details here in the United States.
Christmas is celebrated in many completely different fashions across the globe. Many of which can be odd or strange to Americans. But they are wonderful and unique.
In Sweden, they have a giant goat built from hay to represent the Advent Season. Giant — like 13 meters (42 feet) tall.
The people of Venezuela will travel to church on Christmas Eve. Nothing too unusual. But they do it on roller skates.
Japan has taken to making sure there is Kentucky Fried Chicken on the plate for dinner. Yep, the old Colonel never saw that one coming!
The people of Ukraine celebrate Christmas on January 7th.
And in the homes of the Irish, they will leave a pint of Guinness (ale) and a mince pie for Santa instead of cookies and milk.
What’s the point?
If we were to tell a person who has no concept of Christmas what it is, we have many parts and pieces to the story that the world finds so important. Many traditions, many ideas.
But as we seek a better understanding of this wonderful thing that so many love and cherish, perhaps it is a good idea to grasp the true meaning. Perhaps to understand it ourselves.
We celebrate with trees and decorations and coming together and food. We sing songs and watch movies and listen to carols. We buy gifts and smile more and hug people we barely know. We risk our lives to perch multi-colored lights all over our homes that we will simply be taking down in a month. Risk our very health by eating way too much food that was never meant to be consumed at such quantities.
Then we take pictures and post them to the internet for all to see. We giggle and laugh at corny jokes and over-the-top romance movies. We beg for cold weather in the form of snow. Cards and letters to people we’re not even certain we like. Take a break from life and go to church one more time this year.
And there’s always someone who is going to point out to us the “paganess” behind it all. Or the fact that Jesus wasn’t born in the winter. Can’t go too far without someone being negative.
But the truth?
Christmas was the beginning of the answer. Did you know there is no Christmas without Easter? How could we celebrate the birth of the Savior without the freedom that was to come? But this birth (regardless of where or when it happened) has altered the face of the planet. Nothing touches the world like Christmas.
It’s easier to answer than we might think. The world was in trouble. Not just the USA. Not just Israel. Not just England. The WHOLE world. Yet Salvation could not come from just anyone. In truth, God had to get directly involved. Because He not only loved His creation, but He saw value in us and despite the sin that separated us from Him, He was willing to go to the greatest extremes to resolve the sin problem.
And one night, in the tiniest of villages, in the lowliest of places, under the canopy of one brilliant star the Answer arrived. The Answer to the question as to whether mankind ever stood a chance of truly knowing His Maker.
There is always much great advice that is spread around this time of year. Advice on what to do and how to act. I don’t know that I really have anything much too important to pass along. Maybe this one thing: Don’t let Christmas be the only time when the One who came to save you gets your attention.
Merry Christmas from the Davenports!
Featured Image by Markus Spiske