The Real Joy of Christmas

Originally published Friday, 19 December 2014.

Lights sparkle in the night sky. Prettily wrapped packages lie under the tree. Familiar scents fill our homes from homemade treats and confections. We hear the sounds of bells and familiar carols. Excited children count down the days until the 25th.

Christmas is nearly here.

When most people think of Christmas, they think of a sweet little baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Images of sheep and donkeys; wisemen and angels; songs and joyous laughter come to mind when we think of this time of year. As one song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Why does Christmas equal joy in our mind? Especially for those of us who are Christ followers?

It's more than just the presents and time spent with family. The joy of Christmas goes deeper than the sweet taste of gingerbread, the happiness on a child's face, and the beautiful lights wrapped around the tree. The joy of Christmas comes from why Jesus was born in the first place. It comes from what Jesus came to do. He didn't come simply to be a precious baby for us to ooh and ahh over. He didn't come to remain a child. He came to be our Messiah, our Savior. He came to bring us forgiveness for our sins.

"In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins." Colossians 2:13

This is good news that ought to fill our hearts with awe and wonder. Like the shepherds in the fields, we ought to rejoice at the announcement the multitude of angels brought, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). Like Mary, when we think of the joy and excitement about a baby born in a stable, we ought to ponder all these things in our heart.

Let us consider and ponder what this joy means. At Christmastime, let us consider Jesus, God made flesh, and may our hearts focus on why he came to earth. Let us focus on what it means for God to take on skin and bones that would one day be pierced and broken for us. As we sing our songs of joy, may we ponder in our hearts the marvelous truth that the Son of God would enter our sinful and broken world to free us from our prisons of sin and shame. Let us consider that this baby Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, was born for the purpose of our redemption and forgiveness of sins.

This is the joy of Christmas.

"Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
 Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
 Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
 This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you." (Mary Did You Know? by Mark Lowry)

Let's go deeper this Christmas, beneath the piles of presents, and to the underlying significance of what it means for Jesus to come to earth. For without the birth of Christ, there would be no forgiveness of sins. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!