Many popular Christmas movies attempt to give meaning to the holy day. For example, a movie out this year that I saw said that Christmas is about “paying it forward”. What “it” was and from whom one received “it” in the first place were left unsaid.
The first heralds of the Christ Child’s birth had no such vagueness about the true meaning of Christmas and did not take 120 minutes of syrupy sentimentality to say it: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 ESV).
The Child was not a generic “savior”. Even before Jesus’s birth, God told the Child’s mother Mary (Luke 1:31) and His guardian Joseph that He was to be named Jesus, adding for His guardian the reason: He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
The Savior Jesus’s birth is devoid of its true meaning for the deceived who do not recognize their sin (1 John 1:8). So, to those who think neither that they have sinned nor that they need a savior from sin, God’s law, by which knowledge of sin comes (Romans 3:20), is proclaimed. When that proclamation of God’s law has done its work, then God’s joyous Gospel of love for all in Christ Jesus is proclaimed.
Out of God’s great love, Jesus was born to live and to die for us (John 3:16). If the cute baby in the manger had never become the bloody man on the cross and risen from the tomb, then we all would still be in our sin (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17).
When by God’s leading we confess our sin, when we trust God to forgive our sin for the sake of Jesus Christ, and when we want to do better than to keep on sinning, then God forgives our sin (1 John 1:9). Then we have peace with Him, the true meaning of Christmas (Luke 2:14)!
To those who so repent and believe, suffering and even death may come in this life, but they also have eternal life. Until they fully experience that eternal life, those who repent and believe do try to “pay it forward”, loving God and their neighbors as they first have been loved by Him (1 John 4:19). But, God’s love’s in Christ the Savior remains the real meaning of the holy day and its twelve-day season.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.