The Meaning of Christmas

By Daniel Downs

Christmas is a celebration of the fulfilled promise of a new life, a baby. Honoring this new born destiny presents to the world a universal hope. It is about God being with us now and we being with God in the future.

Christmas is about parents, parenting, naming, and the common work of fulfilling God’s revealed purpose for the world; their world of family, our world of common good relationships, and God’s purposed world.

Christmas is thus a celebration of life-giving. Life is God’s gift to the world–to each individual, to each family, and to society. Every morally and materially good relationship contributes to the creation of abundant life for all. This too reflects God’s good will for all people. Its revelation began with the divine promise to Abraham. It was institutionalized through Israel. Its realization was pronounced by angels and manifested in the new born babe of Bethlehem—the one the angels said they would see lying in a lowly manger (Luke 2:1-20). The irony of life is that it always begins in utter helpless poverty, but God gives everyone the natural riches of loving parents, caring society, and nature’s bounty.

Material and monetary gifts as well as profits are meant to serve the prophetic purpose of life-destiny. Even the three wise men brought gifts to the new born babe that not only made him and his family very rich but also provided the means to fulfill his purpose in life (Matthew 2:1-12).

The significance of Christmas is how God reveals and fulfills His part in the destiny of human life. Human destiny is not a search to find oneself. It is not a hunt for life purpose or meaningful work. Human destiny is a divine revelation that is manifest, reinforced, prepared for, and fulfilled. It is the life-work, a multifaceted employment, of living well. Living well is not best defined by financial worth but by the quality of life made and given. A good life is not made alone. The author of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, wrote: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” If God made us within a community of others, it stands to reason that we must do the same. Good persons are reproduced in a redemptive society of families committed to forming each newly born child into a good citizen of our heavenly Father’s world. In God’s world, the divinely ordained work of living means being and making to be good children, good parents, good spouses, good neighbors, good laborers or entrepreneurs, good citizens. As God provided for Jesus through the magi, God wants to provide everything needed to fulfill our own destiny whether it be with spouse, home, material goods, and understanding of the divine purpose for life. This God did for humanity’s first parent. God gave him a wife, Eve. God gave them a home in the garden. He gave them all of nature’s produce for sustenance. God also gave them trusteeship over all the riches of nature including all living creatures (Genesis 1:26-31 &2:7-24). Then, God gave a world full of families to help each other fulfill life’s destiny.

The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45-49). His birth was the beginning of a new humanity. The accomplishment of his life work ushered in the realization of God’s redemptive plan for all people. The revelation of Jesus his life-purpose was first given to his parents, Mary and Joseph. God’s prepared them to prepare Jesus for its fulfillment. Therefore, the life of Jesus Christ is the model of God’s plan for every parent and child.

Jesus’ life is a revelation and history, albeit a sketchy one, of how God fulfills His plan for the world through one family of chosen parents and chosen child (to be). The life-work of Jesus—the chosen child—could not have happened without chosen parents and the entire lineage of other chosen ones. Both gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly shows the ancestry of Jesus going back through King David, to Judah, Abraham, Noah, and finally to Adam (Matthew 1:1-17 & Luke 3:23-38).

The same is true for all of us. Whether seemingly big or miniscule, our individual purpose in God’s plan for the world is connected to a host of ancestors going back to Adam and Eve. Every one of them was chosen by God for our life-work to be fulfilled.

Like Jesus, every one of us was born to fulfill a specific part in the plan of God for the world.

As the new Adam, Jesus birth represents the rebirth of humanity. Every human being born since Jesus has been represented by Him to God. Everyone has had or will have the opportunity to experience the redemption, reconciliation, renewing, and parenthood of God, who never intended to father only Jesus. God wants all people to become His children, living in His household, under His authority and care. In one sense, all humans are children of God because all exist as God created them to exist. Yet, some children live without parents. Some people who have parents live as though they do not. Others exist without any sense of history, tradition, value, future hope, purpose or legacy, all of which begins in a family household connected to extended family within a society and world of families. Even though some discover it in social institutions like school, workplace, military, social mission, mosque, synagogue, temple or church, membership in them does not equate to being part of God’s household. Without a life forming relationship with God, hearing His defining words, and obeying His law or rules meant to direct behavior and work, no one can claim to be in the household of God. For life in God’s household is eternal and not limited to temporary materiality of the present.

Jesus represents life in the household of God. His birth was the beginning not the end. His untimely death was the means to a redemptive end, the fulfillment of God’s redemption of all people. His resurrection represents the future for a new humanity. As his apostle Paul taught, Jesus was the first born from the dead not the last (Colossians 1:18; Romans8:29). Every one of us will be reborn but only those who have been faithful to God will continue to live in His household.

Wayward people often behave in ways that land them in jail or prison. The faithless and unfaithful also will live eternal life behind bars in the prison called hell.

Jesus is the way of escape in the present.

Christmas is a mass celebration of eternal life. The end of life is to live eternally in and to the glory of God the Father. This is accomplished by living the good life in God’s household, doing what is right, and fulfilling one’s divinely purposed life-work.

What God revealed to Mary and Joseph, to Elizabeth and Zachariah, to Sarah and Abraham was the life work and purpose of their first born child. Each has to live so as to fulfill it. For Jesus to fulfill his life work and its purpose, he has to live without sin to the very end. We too have to learn to do the same. For without holiness (likeness of God) no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 ). That is, knowone will see Him after this life in heavenly city.

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