Looking back at this Christmas, I have a confession to make.
This year, Christmas hasn’t been about baby Jesus coming in a manger. Not for me. Not this time. Well, not exactly.
For when I thought about how Christmas was coming up, the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t the religious implications of Christmas. It was this feeling that Christmas was going to be a special day; a day spent with good food, lovely presents, good company and basically the good life, shared with those I loved. That special feeling was what Christmas meant to me.
At first, that sounds kind of bad. Every year, we Christians thunder, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” Christmas isn’t about Santa, or presents, or even family time, but about Jesus, we say.
So what does baby Jesus coming in a manger mean?
It means, like the angel said, Emmanuel. God with us. God coming down amongst all the sin and the suffering and vowing to change all that. This is the chance for a redeemed life.
It means the Prince of Peace, our Wonderful Counsellor, is here.
It means “Joy to the world, and peace and goodwill to men, on whom His favour rests.”
It means that with God with us, we can have a relationship with God that restores our broken world and gives us peace; peace with God, peace with our neighbours, peace with ourselves. Joy, peace, goodwill. All this through friendship with God made possible by God-with-us.
That’s the theology of Christmas we’re supposed to think about on Christmas day.
But if that’s the theology of Christmas, then I guess my family-time, Christmas-party, food-guzzling, present-shopping, present-giving Christmas was my moment of Christmas theology.
Bear with me here.
I can spend the whole day in my family’s house peacefully and quietly because God, the Prince of Peace, is with us.
I can go to church and sing the same old songs again with the same old people I meet every week, and have a real sense of community because Jesus, our shared King of Kings, is among us.
I can go to a Christmas party and just hang out with my friends, goofing around, having deep chats, shallow chats, good food and basically a good happy time, at peace with God and man, because Jesus is God with us.
I had joy, peace, goodwill this Christmas. I experienced a taste of what it means to have God with us.
So even if I haven’t thought about it theologically, maybe, just maybe, the theology of Christmas has revolutionised my life anyway. These good times, these joyous times, this shared goodwill I have with my friends and family, is the point of Christmas when it is the fruit of God with us.
I know not everyone has a Christmas like that (for some people, Christmas is just plain horrible), and it’s rude of me to presume it’s the normal experience, but isn’t that kind of the point? This is definitely not the normal human experience.
This peace and joy and goodwill is only possible because Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is with us. It’s the theology of Christmas after all.
And maybe for all our talk about how Christmas isn’t about presents, or good food, or good company, or even family, maybe it is. Maybe it is about how all these things are made richer and better because of what Christ has done for us.
And he will be named Emmanuel, which means, God with us.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!”