Another holiday season has arrived with lights, glitter, and tinsel in tow. Joy and smiles dot the landscape as people search for the perfect gifts and attend parties and gatherings. Decorations go up, animosity goes down, and for a little while the world seems in harmony. What is it about the holidays that so many love? Throughout the year, other days of celebration are popular, but none of them come close to the popularity of Christmas.
I think the holiday season captures the best of the human spirit and puts it on display. From the stories of the real Saint Nicholaus to desires of peace, Christmas embodies them all. What many today do not understand, however, is that what they love about the season are daily principles of Christianity that so many reject today.
One idea that saturates Christmas is peace. Many people know it from the angelic declaration of Luke 2:14, “And on earth peace.” Through his willing sacrifice Jesus brought peace between humanity and God (Eph 2:13-18). As recipients of the “peace that passes understanding,” Christians are called to “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18). The spirit of peace that prevails at Christmas ought to prevail all year.
Kindness is another important value exalted at Christmas. Some manuscripts record the angels singing “good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). While the preferred reading is “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased,” the other reading is popular and therefore, around the holidays, people are nicer and kinder to others—including strangers. They give to charities in a desire to help those less fortunate. People smile more, open more doors, and give up more for others in a show of good will to their fellow man. This spirit of good will and kindness is what God asks of his people every day (Gal 6:8-10).
Christmas is also the season of joy. Sin defiled and cursed the world (Gen 3:18; Rom 8:20). Yet, when the Savior came the anticipation of redemption brought great joy (Rom 8:19-23). This is the “great joy” announced by the angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:10). Because of this salvation, Christians are called to “Rejoice always” (1 Thes 5:16; Phil 4:4; Rom 5:1-2). Again, the glad tidings and joy of the Christmas season should be shown every day all year long.
One of the biggest traditions of Christmas is the generosity of the season. Some trace gift giving back to the magi bringing gifts to the newborn Jesus in Matthew 2. However, that did not happen as tradition states it, but rather Jesus was probably a toddler since the magi indicated the star appeared two years prior (Matt 2:16). In addition, there is no indication that gifts were ever brought to Jesus to commemorate his birth. And the gifts brought to him as a toddler weren’t for his birth, but for his position and death—King and sacrifice. However, the tradition of gift giving survives, and children around the world are thankful. But like other Christmas traditions, generosity ought to define daily Christian living. The Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35; Eph 4:28).
All these traditions are undergirded by love. In fact, all great Christmas traditions are founded on love: family gatherings, generosity, joy, peace, kindness, and remembering others. Love is the common bond of Christmas that ties hearts together across the country and across national boundaries. Love is the hallmark of Christianity every day (Mat 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28; 1 John 4:7-8). Christian love reflects the love God has already shown to the world (John 3:16; 15:13; 1 John 4:9-10).
Many people say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” While this is true, it is not for the reason most people think. Many think it is about his birth, but what makes Christmas the season of Jesus is that it brings together the greatest values of humanity and puts them on display for the whole world to see. And it is Jesus that makes these values so wonderful. Sadly, by next year, many will have forgotten the values that make the holiday season so glorious. They will turn their backs on the Savior they praised during Christmas. But God will still be there, calling people to peace, kindness, joy, generosity, and love. Imagine if people sought to live like Christ all year, it would be Christmas every day.