How does Christmas change your world? Think about that for just a moment. How will your world be different on December 26, January 18, February 12, or March 23 because of Christmas? Will you be happier? Will you have more peace in your life? Will you be a better person? Or will you simply have more things and owe more money and have to work more hours to help eliminate the additional strain that debt puts on your budget? If we are completely honest, this holiday does not really change our world all that much. Even for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the Saviour of the world, Christmas does not change our lives that much.
There are those who ignore any commemoration of December 25, citing its origin as a pagan holiday and reminding everyone that we really do not know when Christ was born. Then there are, in this day and age, the politically correct who pass this time of the year off as a winter holiday season, refusing to acknowledge any religious significance of it, as they fight to have manger scenes removed from public property.
But Ellen White wrote: “Christmas is coming. May you all have wisdom to make it a precious season.” Review and Herald, December 9, 1884.
What We Do
Largely, we celebrate this day as a great American holiday—snow, holly and mistletoe, family and friends gathered around the fireplace remembering what this special day was like when we were kids. The shopping, the parties, and all of the busy activities that we cram into the season are a part of how it goes. But when everything is said and done, the only real change Christmas brings to our world is that it makes us a little bit poorer and a lot more tired; and all of this for an event that God never called us to commemorate.
We are never once asked to remember the birth of Christ. Our celebration of His birth is a purely human endeavor. He commanded us to remember His death, which we do through the act of communion. (See 1 Corinthians 11:25, 26; John 13:4–16.) But He never asked us to celebrate His birth. It is not necessarily a bad thing to remember Christ’s birth, but does it change our lives?
The purpose of the birth of Christ was to bring a change to our world. I do not mean just “the world” in general, but I mean He came to bring a change to each and every one of our personal worlds. Where we carry out life on a day to day basis—our job, our relationships, our families, our spirituality—should all be radically transformed by the remembrance of Christ’s birth; not transformed by our celebration of Christmas, but transformed by the event itself.
Christmas Should Be
When the angel announced the birth of Christ, it said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men.” Luke 2:10–14.
The angels tell us that the arrival of Christ in our world, Christmas as we now know it, is to be joyful. It should be something that helps quell our fears, and it should be something that brings us peace. Yet most of us today would not say that this day quells our fears, brings us true joy, or that it truly brings us peace. No, I would guess that most of us would be hard pressed to see just how Christmas changes our world, but it should and it can. Let us explore how Christmas, not just the celebration of a holiday, but the contemplation of Christ’s birth itself will change our world if we will allow it to happen.
Show the Way
At Christmas we celebrate God becoming flesh, becoming a man so that He could free all men from the power and penalty of sin. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1, 14.
God became a man because He loves us. He became a man so that He could show us the way to salvation.
The story is told of a farmer who, one snowy, wintry evening, just before dark, heard something hit the window in his dining room. He went to investigate and saw a small bird repeatedly flying into the window glass. Farther out in the yard he saw a whole flock of little songbirds. He realized that these were birds migrating south, and they had been caught by the early snowfall. They were cold and scratching through the thin snow in search of food. The one bird had seen the light shining through the window and had tried to get into the house where it was warm.
The farmer had an idea. He had a large barn where the birds would be safe and warm, and there was plenty of hay on the floor so they could find seed. Without hesitating, he put on his coat to go out and open the barn doors. But when he had done so, the birds did not come in. He turned on a light, hoping that would attract them, but to no avail. He sprinkled seed on the ground to make a path for them to follow. They gratefully ate some of the seed, but they would not come close to the barn entrance.
Fearing for their safety, the farmer decided to take more drastic measures. He planned to circle around behind the flock and chase them into the barn. That certainly was unsuccessful! After running himself ragged, he dropped to his knees on the snow, and a thought came to him: “If only I were a bird! I could then tell them about the warm barn and the seed. I could save their lives!”
That is what Christmas is: Jesus becoming one of us so that we can understand God’s plan; Jesus becoming one of us so He can tell us how and where to find safety; Jesus becoming one of us so He can save us.
Remembering Christ’s birth will change your world by allowing you to experience genuine love. “God is love.” 1 John 4:8, 16. We have all heard that said many, many times. The apostle John wrote those words in his first letter to the believers in the Mediterranean world: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” Verses 7–9.
In Christmas, God becoming man, we get to experience genuine love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16, 17.
God loves us so much that He gave His Son, not to condemn us but to save us! What an amazing love! So how does knowing about the love that God has for you change your world? It does not! Knowing about God’s love is not enough to change your world. You have to experience that love, but you will never experience the love of God in Christmas unless you truly believe in that love.
Peace with God
The second way that your world may change is through providing you with lasting peace.
Peace is something that all of us need but most of us do not have. Most of us spend a great deal of time and energy pursuing peace, but very little time experiencing it.
Decisions we have made and the actions we have taken in the past often haunt us. Our desire to have better, more fulfilling lives keeps us awake at night. Questions about what could have been or what should have been often plague our minds. We want to be fulfilled and satisfied. We want to be complete, but we lack that completeness and, as a result, we lack peace. Rather than days filled with peace and confidence, we find our days filled with stress and worry. Often that sensation is heightened at Christmas, because we hear all about peace on earth, but we cannot find peace in our own lives.
One of the great things about Christmas is that if we truly accept in faith what God has given us, His Son, then we can experience peace—peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.
Jesus, that baby born in a barn and laid to rest in a manger, came to earth so that we could have peace with God. Sin separates us from God. Sin puts us at odds with God, but Jesus came to pay for our sins. He came to bring us forgiveness. His death upon the cross paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, if we will accept His sacrifice and the forgiveness it provides, we are made right with God. When the relationship between man and God is fixed, we then experience peace with God.
Much of the lack of peace we experience is because we know that we have messed up. We know we have done things that are wrong, and we worry that God cannot love us and will not accept us because of our past.
Now, imagine the peace you can have in knowing that God has no record of your past. Imagine the peace of knowing that God has erased your past sins from His memory book. Imagine the peace of knowing that God is not looking to punish you, but that He is seeking to love you and embrace you.
When you believe the Christmas story—the whole story, not just the part about the baby in the manger, but also the part about that baby growing up and dying on a cross to pay for your sins, the part about that baby-turned-man rising from the grave and defeating sin and death—and accept God’s forgiveness, you will experience peace with God.
Peace with Others
Face it; we often do not live at peace with others. We find that other people have a way of disturbing our peace, and we never stop to consider that we tend to disturb the peace of others. Living at peace with others is hard work, but Christ calls us to do so nonetheless. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Romans 12:18; 14:19.
So how does Christmas help you to experience peace with others? When you understand what Christmas is all about—God providing a way for you to be at peace with Him—then you can choose to experience peace in your relationships.
If God can forgive you and restore you to a right relationship with Him, after all you have done to violate His trust and love, if you can choose to be at peace with God, then you can choose to be at peace with others. You can learn to forgive them. You can learn to tolerate what it is about them that disturbs you. And when you choose to live at peace with others, you will be less inclined to disturb their peace as well.
Peace with Yourself
One of the great aspects of peace that you get to experience because of Christmas is peace with yourself. In your more honest moments, you probably do not like yourself much. You are too aware of your failings and your sins. But, because of Christ’s birth, you can have peace with yourself. Not because what you have done does not matter, but because you are a new person in Christ. “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 11 Corinthians 5:17. The New Living Translation of this text is especially interesting: “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!”
You can be at peace with yourself, not because you are such a great guy or terrific gal, but because in Christ you are a new creation. You are not the same old mean, evil, hurtful, self-centered person you once were. In Christ, you are forgiven, and you are a new creation. That does not mean you do not have moments when you fail. But it does mean that, in Christ, those moments become the exception and not the rule. You are growing and becoming more than that which you are today. You can be at peace with yourself because Christ is now working in you and renewing you daily.
Purpose of Life
Christmas changes your world by allowing you to experience genuine love and by providing you with a lasting peace. It also changes your world by giving your life purpose.
Too many people are not living their lives; too many people are just existing. Too many people are moving day to day without any sense of purpose in their lives. This lack of purpose leads to depression and self-destructive behavior. This lack of purpose leads to a sense of hopelessness that is heightened during the holiday season for many people. However, Christmas is about hope and purpose, and rather than feeling defeated and lost during the holidays, you can have a sense of true hope, because Christ’s birth gives purpose to your life.
Christmas brings hope because it drives home the fact that you were made for a purpose. You were made to have fellowship with God. You were created to have a relationship with God, and that relationship is so important to God that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to repair that relationship when it was broken.
Your life has purpose, and your purpose is to love God and to serve your fellow man. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, put it like this: We are to serve with “A heart to God and a hand to man.”
Christmas, the coming of the Christ child, gives our lives purpose. Jesus came, becoming one of us, so that we could fulfill our purpose, that of having a love relationship with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” “He came unto His own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1, 2; 11–14.
Jesus, full of grace and truth, came from the Father; He became one of us so that He could pay for our sins and restore the relationship we were created to have with God. His birth, His death, and His resurrection give us purpose in our lives.
Imagine living life every day with a clear sense of purpose—that of knowing God and pleasing Him. Everything else fades away when you make this your focus. You have hope and purpose every day when you understand that in everything, big or small, you can grow to know God more, and you can live to please Him. “If you would secure the grand aim and purpose of life without mistake in your choice or fear of failure, you must make God first and last and best in every plan and work and thought.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 167.
Change Comes By . . .
All of these things—genuine love, peace with God, with others, with yourself, and purpose of life—come to us in the birth of Christ. Through Jesus we have the opportunity to know God; thus we are given hope and purpose.
How does Christmas change your world? It is not through the gifts or the memories made. It is not through the time spent with family. It is not through any of the trappings of the holiday. Christmas, as most people celebrate it, will not change your world. But Christmas, as the birth of Christ, the Son of God made flesh, the birth of Jesus—Immanuel—God with us, can change your world by allowing you to experience genuine love, by providing you with lasting peace, and by giving you a purpose in life. Those are major changes! Allow Christ to be the reason for and the center of your Christmas, and just see what transformation He will bring to your life.
A member of the LandMarks staff, Anna writes from her home which is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.