Christmas seems to have become a polarizing event within our culture. People either love Christmas with an undying passion tied to childhood memories and traditions, or rage against the commercialism and over-extended celebration of the holiday.
As Christians we discuss the "true meaning" of Christmas: Jesus' birth into the world, Emmanuel, God with us. Or perhaps we take on a more cynical view and bring up the pagan origins of the Christmas tree, or the fact that Jesus was almost definitely not born on December 25th.
Spiritually Christmas is about more than Jesus' birth: it's about his death and resurrection as well. It is an epic moment in the drama of eternity that we see spelled out across the entire Bible.
Christmas is also an important point for many college students. For those that have plugged in with a Chi Alpha community on campus, this is their first time to be away for longer than a few days. Some students are going home to families who do not follow Christ; others will have to face decisions about whether they will fall into old patterns or not. Christmas is generally viewed as a time to be together with family, but it can be hard for students who have just learned to survive on their own to reenter into the family dynamic on a daily basis.
This doesn't mean Christmas isn't an exciting time for most students. New situations allow us to learn new things, and enjoying the company of our family while processing a new, personalized view of Jesus can be a wonderful time of growth.
All of us understand the frustrations of coming together with those we love over the holidays. While they are the people we care most about in the world, they also tend to be the ones who drive us crazy.
This is where the message of Christmas is essential. Christmas is about the love of God shown to us by the gift of Jesus. We emulate that by giving each other gifts. However God did not simply gift wrap a box and drop it down to earth. Jesus, who was in very nature God, shed his rights as God and became human. The story of Christmas is a story of giving everything. A story of sacrifice and devotion. It's a story of the God of the universe becoming something weak, poor, and insignificant in the eyes of men.
This is the gift we need to remember as we look towards Christmas. By all means, buy your brother that PS4 or your grandma some new slippers, but then think about adding in some gifts of humility, meekness, and honor. Offer to do the dishes while everyone else watches the new movie. Bite your tongue and turn the other cheek when your uncle makes a comment about how much you earn. Look around the room and remember that everyone there is a child of God, and he held nothing back from his children when he sent Jesus that first Christmas.
Instead of just thinking about what you can give away under the tree this year, find some gifts you can start giving the moment your family comes in the door. As you begin to see them as God does, don't be afraid to take a moment and treasure up what God has done among you in the last year. That's what Mary did on the first Christmas, and just like her we have the opportunity to incarnate love into the world. Let's do it.