The Holidays are marketed as a time of good cheer. It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Right? Sadly, the sin of humanity comes through most vividly during the Christmas season. I remember a few years back a news story about a man dying on Black Friday after being trampled by a mob of shoppers trying to get the best deal. That’s terrible! The truth is that we are not the way we should be. The happy veneer called “Christmas Spirit” often masks the lurking reality within us—we are selfish sinners.
Many of us have good intentions this time of year—it’s the season that people look forward to all year round—but they end up being subverted by problems and issues. I’ve heard that the holiday months have the highest suicide count. Why? People wait all year for times of happiness and joy only to realize that though “’Tis the season to be jolly,” life issues are real and painful. Families are broken and need reconciliation. The problem of sin runs deep; the hurt cannot be healed by a few months of commercialized jollity. Try as we might to enjoy the season, we are never the joyful people we wish we could be, and neither are the people we know!
We all know what it’s like to try to be good. We all know what it’s like to fail. Our good intentions are usually so fleeting. Our resolve generally lasts a couple weeks (think New Year’s resolutions). We must admit that sometimes our attitude is the party-spoiler. Isn’t it obvious that there’s serious problem with us? Our attempts at being good fail. And even when they succeed, they’re mostly done for self-promotion. We’re nice because our nice-ness wins attention and approval. Indeed, we wish we could be selfless and joyful, humbly giving gifts to our friends and family this holiday season. Unfortunately, chances are we’ll be selfish and manipulative. The grip of sin holds tightly the hearts of men.
Or, to put it in Christmas terms, if God was coming to town, making a list of who was naughty and who was nice, we’d all be in serious danger. We’d all be naughty. And the consequence would be infinitely worse than coal in the stocking.
So what do we need? We don’t need better commercial advertising. We don’t need to coerce stork clerks to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. We don’t need eliminate “Xmas” so we can put “Christ back into Christmas.” We don’t need more money so we can give better gifts. None of those things will fix the problem. We need new hearts.
And we actually need more than that. Because our selfishness has so offended God, in order to maintain justice he must deal with us. So not only do we need new hearts, we need someone to live the life we couldn’t live, die the death we deserved to die; we need someone to meet God’s righteous standards on our behalf and pay the price of sin we could never afford. We need to be forgiven, justified, and changed.
The Christmas Gospel is the message that God provided these things in Jesus Christ. We could not climb out of the muck of sin we were born in, so God became flesh and lived among us. He lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death. And if we understand that we’ve offended God, and trust in Jesus, God will treat us as if we lived Jesus’ perfect life, and treat Jesus as if he lived our sinful lives. Upon our belief, God will grant us conversion, by which the Holy Spirit dwells within us to work supernatural change.
That’s good news; and that’s why I celebrate Christmas.