But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
– Luke 2:10-11
Christmas can mean different things to different people. Generally it is a time of generosity and gift giving.
It was not so for the Charles Dickens’ character, Scrooge, who despised Christmas:
“Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
Eventually, the true spirit of Christmas would transform Scrooge; his heart of stone would become a heart of flesh; his covetousness was overtaken by kindness.
The deeper, spiritual, religious meaning of Christmas tells us that God came among us in Jesus, a babe born in a manger in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. The Sovereign of the universe was no Scrooge: God left all that power and glory to dwell among us, identifying and empathizing with the most humble and ordinary of human life. Why? Because God loves God’s creation; God is not cold, distant, and indifferent to human beings; God cares and comes to our help and aid.
In Jesus a light has come into the world, and darkness cannot extinguish it! True, human beings create a lot of darkness! Nothing darker than the wars we wage, the harm we do, and the pain we cause. Much of this stems from having hearts closed to those around us—too closed to those who are different—too closed to love. Before we know it we are caught up in the darkness of dehumanization, exclusion, racism, hate, and even violence.
Human beings can get it wrong. We can prefer the dark to the light. We need an intervention. Christmas is exactly that! God has intervened and come among us. In Jesus Christ we are taught how to live and even how to die; instead of hate, he shows us how to love; instead of death, he gives us life; as we draw near to him, we are transformed to be like him. Starting with our own heart, light overcomes the darkness; one by one, as we follow him, we become the person God intends us to be, and in the process he helps make the world the place God intends it to be.
Charles Dickens’ Scrooge reveals the power of Christmas to change a man hard as flint into a caring, generous, and loving human being. Christmas, at it deepest level, brings to each of us the capacity to be light instead of darkness, love instead of hate, life instead of death.
The world needs Christmas. We need Christmas. I need Christmas. With the shepherds, we all need to hear and inwardly digest the “good news of great joy” that is for all people everywhere. God has come among us! A path is set before us! It leads us from our worst to our best! Will we let the light that has come into the world be our gift this Christmas? Will we allow ourselves to be transformed? Will we become gifts of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and self-control to those near and far? Will we hear and receive with the shepherds and magi that a Child has been born to us, who is Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour? Will we follow him and be transformed by him? He is the gift of Christmas! The gift of light, love, and life! Each of us needs Christmas!