By Anton Zhang
Christmas Celebrations define us
Christmas is a time of intentional expressions of our humanity – when friends, family, and communities come together in peace and love.
We ask ourselves: How should I spend my Christmas this year? What presents should I give to my family and friends? Should I decorate my house? How can I show kindness and love to others this Christmas?
Many of our decisions are directed at bringing joy to ourselves and to others.
While these are important decisions, we can be entirely consumed with our expressions of humanity (through love, kindness, community, etc.) without first asking ourselves some far more basic questions. What does it mean to be human? What defines me as a human being? What is the purpose of living?
If you doubt the relevance of these big questions, I assure you that all of us have answers to them whether intentional, assumed, or ingrained in us by our social context. And whatever answers we have will affect the way we view life and the way we behave.
So what has this got to do with Christmas? You may be familiar with the Christmas story of Christ Jesus born to the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph, but perhaps you have not realised that this story makes claims concerning the biggest questions of human life.
Cosmic Implications: The Christmas narrative makes amazing claims about ultimate reality: God exists, He can be known, and He has already made Himself known through Jesus Christ. If these claims are true, then cosmic implications of a grand scale will logically follow.
In the delightful story of baby Jesus we're really talking about the most powerful, perfectly good, and inconceivably great being coming down to earth as a man to interact with mankind on an intimate level.
Christ came for a purpose, which was to redeem mankind from the effects of their rebellion against Himself, which the Bible calls sin. His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross in the place of mankind brought peace and reconciliation between God and man. Christ's sacrifice on the cross followed by His bodily resurrection marked the defeat of sin and death (the ultimate effect of sin), a status which is yet to be fully realised.
Personal Implications: What we believe about God shapes everything else that we believe to be true and the way we act.
For example, our beliefs concerning God dictate our perceptions of truth, morality, and purpose. Our perceptions of truth, morality, and purpose shape our values and priorities, which then ultimately influences our behaviour.
The Christmas story tells us who we are as human beings. Right and wrong, good and evil exist objectively (beyond mere personal or social preference) and humanity has failed and continues to fail to uphold what is right. We were made in the image of the perfectly good God and chose to reject Him. We are creatures who require saving, and so a Saviour was born to rescue us – Jesus Christ.
In union with Jesus by faith, we are loved, forgiven, accepted, and freed. He takes our penalty and guilt, we are made right in His sight and we enjoy everlasting life with God. This is how we perceive ourselves as Christians and forms an element of our worldview. (Perhaps more accurately, it's the way God perceives His children which is independent of our own feelings and perceptions). Inevitably, our perceptions of who we are, our identities, affect our attitudes and our everyday decisions and actions.
Ask the Important Questions
As Christmas approaches with all its lights and attractions remember that the story of the birth of Jesus is not just a story because it makes claims concerning ultimate reality. In doing so, implications emerge that range from the cosmic level to the personal level of everyday life.
Perhaps a good Christmas present to receive would be the ability to ask the right questions about Christmas– the most important questions.
Is Christmas a celebration of a truth that holds infinite importance, or is the birth of Jesus of no importance at all?