Christmas comes in the dead of winter. In a season when the earth is cold, dark, and bare, songs on the radio belt out a chorus which names this season, "the most wonderful time of the year." But, is it really the most wonderful time of the year?
In the movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown hopelessly tries to find the meaning of Christmas. Everyone is joyously busying themselves with Christmas preparations. Everyone, that is, except for Charlie Brown. He tries and fails. Maybe if he found just the right activity, a Christmas light contest, making a wish list for Santa Claus, or directing the Christmas play, he too would find the joy of Christmas.
Charlie Brown follows the advice of his friends. He follows in their footsteps, but still the problem remains, "…I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel…My trouble is Christmas, I just don't understand it. Instead of feeling happy I feel sort of let down." So, in desperation he cries out, "Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?”
What is Christmas all about anyway?
You may receive just as many unique answers for as many people as you ask. Joy, thankfulness, family, charity, love, peace on earth, etc. The list could go on and on. The meaning of Christmas is as unique as each individual. But, what is Charlie Brown to do when he does not feel the way he is supposed to feel? What is Christmas all about that makes us break from our regular routines to pause and celebrate? Where is the joy in Christmas?
Charlie Brown receives the answer from the lips of a shy, timid boy clinging to his security blanket. As he opens his mouth to answer Charlie Brown, his blanket falls to the floor.
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2: 10–12).
What is Christmas all about? The words of the angel proclaim that the reason for the joy and peace of Christmas are not found in our feelings about Christmas, but in infant lying in the manger in Bethlehem.
The trouble with Christmas is that, most times, we just don't understand it. In his fourth thesis in his Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther writes, "Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.”
Our problem is Charlie Brown's problem. We judge with our feelings. We determine the worth of the season by how it makes us feel. And, as Charlie Brown states, at Christmas we don't feel the way we are "supposed to feel.”
We continually look for an extraordinary, ornamented, spectacular Messiah rather than the lowly, humble, suffering Christ. Christmas disappoints the Old Adam's expectations.
The significance of Christmas is not the fanfare of angels or the majestic and miraculous star, but who this child is and will forever be for you. The meaning of Christmas is found in the angel's words, "Fear not…for unto you." The reason for the incarnation is that you and I would not fear.
As sinful beings before a holy God, you and I have every reason to fear. God has promised one thing to sinners - death (Romans 6:23). We cannot stand in God's glorious presence and live.
Our Lord does not come with the wrath that our sins deserve, but in mercy and faithfulness to make Himself forever inseparable from us. He has come to give us all that He is so that we may fear not. For you is born a Savior, your sin-bearer, and your Righteousness.
The gift is not extravagantly wrapped, but in pieces of cloth. Our Lord is not seated on a throne of gold, but laid in a dirty manger, a barn animal's feeding dish. The Christ is not given a jeweled crown, but a crown of thorns. He is not surrounded by a company of angels, but rather is encircled by a company of sinners and restless dirty animals.
So, what is Christmas all about, what is the reason for the season? The reason for Christmas, the reason for the incarnation was you and me. Martin Luther in his commentary on the book of Galatians writes, "[Christ] has covered Himself with the wrapping of our sins, in our damnation, in our death, and in all our wickedness, just as He has wrapped Himself in our flesh and blood…Christ is God's power, righteousness, blessing, grace, and life. He defeats and destroys the monsters of sin, death, and the curse without weapons, only in His own body and in Himself.”
Fear not because God refuses to give you what you deserve. He refuses to be a Santa figure. He refuses to dish out what you have coming to you.
The joy of Christmas is not dependent on our feelings about it. The Gospel proclamation does not bank on whether we feel sorry enough or joyous enough. The Gospel proclaims to all without stipulation, "fear not…. for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Fear not for Christ still comes to you and me in the ordinary means of grace. He comes to us in the words of absolution. He places us under the care of the Trinity by giving connecting us to Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism. In bread and wine, Christ unites Himself to us by giving us His body and blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of all our sins.
What is Christmas about? Where is the joy in this season? Christmas joy comes from the good news that Jesus has come for you and me. He has come to die the death our sins deserve and raise us to new life in Himself. He promises forgiveness and eternal life to us. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. And that is something to be joyful about this Christmas season.