In the busyness, hustle and bustle of Christmas it is so easy to miss what really matters. It is incredibly easy to get distracted (not to mention stressed out!) by the food and festivities, as well as gatherings with family and friends – good and enjoyable as those things can be. We give and receive all sorts of gifts, but can so easily forget about the greatest gift of all that Christmas is pointing to.

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The familiarity 0f Christmas, the cute baby, the manger and nativity scene seem so commonplace and yet behind those events are matters of deep significance and importance. 

Here are four important truths that Christmas teaches us:

1. The birth of Jesus Christ was an actual historical event.
When we think of the nostalgia, fun and joy of Christmas, we forget that this was a historical event with all the stress, confusion and unpredictability of life. Luke’s Gospel account tells us in chapter 2:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Jesus’ birth was not some kind of fairy tale or made up story. His birth and life are well documented and verified historically. Caesar Augustus ruled from 27BC to AD14 and ordered a census requiring all Romans and Jews to register in their hometowns. The census was a way to get a registration list for taxes. That was the important news of the day and a painful reminder to Jews of their Roman occupation. Mary and Joseph had to travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. By foot it would have taken at least 3 days. (For more on the historical authenticity of Christ see here.)

2. The birth of Jesus Christ shows God has come to be with us.
This child had also been prophesied to come for many centuries through the Old Testament scriptures. In a dream an angel came to Joseph telling him, …She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’. The Gospel writer Matthew goes on to tell us, “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet:’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).

Did you notice the two names of the baby that God has given as his gift to the world? The first name Jesus we are familiar with. It is from the Greek (and the same as the name Joshua in the Hebrew Old Testament) that means ‘Saviour’.

The second name is Immanuel which means God with us. That is also hugely significant. The birth of Jesus tells us the God of the universe has chosen not to remain distant and unknowable. He has humbled himself to take human form. Here is how Rico Tice has put it:

“God identifies with us. God came to us. Not only did God’s Son come as a person, he came as a baby – completely vulnerable, completely open, completely dependent. The hands that crafted the stars at the beginning of everything now reached up for a cuddle. The one who sustains the cosmos needed to be cleaned and changed. That’s how God came to us, to our world – he gave himself, as a baby.”

3. Because God came to be with us in such vulnerability we can then go on to say that God is for us.
He brings dignity to our lives. He wants to have a relationship with us. He loves us. Again quoting Rico Tice:

“Who are you? Are you anything more than the sum of your atoms, which have gathered for a blink in the great impersonal sweep of time, and which one day will disperse? Put bluntly, are you anything more than a meaningless speck, no more or less important than any other speck? Are you worth anything other than your contribution to society or your usefulness to the economy? Yes – because there is a Creator God who visited His world as Immanuel. We each have an intrinsic value and nothing that anyone else can do to us, or that we can do to ourselves, reduces or extinguishes that value.You are precious, however you feel, whatever you do, however useful you are. Nobody is a nobody to God.”

God shows He is for us by identifying with our lives. He know the joys and pains of this world, because He has lived life here on earth with all its challenges and frustrations. And ultimately God shows He is for us by Jesus choosing to go to the cross. (For more on that see What Is So Good About Good Friday? and Is This The Best News You Have Ever Heard?)

4. Because God came to be with us in Jesus Christ that means God is for us which in turn means God can come to live in us.
This is the ultimate gift of Christmas! God is offering you and me His very self through the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives. There can be no better gift. The very presence of God in my personal life to comfort, support and guide. And that gift does not come to those who deserve it. I receive the gift not on the basis of my goodness or performance, but on the basis of Christ’s obedience to the cross. For more on this see posts and podcast on religion).

Stuart Townend summarises this beautifully at the end of his song:

Now He’s standing in the place of honour,
Crowned with glory on the highest throne,
Interceding for His own beloved
Till His Father calls to bring them home!
Then the skies will part as the trumpet sounds
Hope of heaven or the fear of hell;
But the bride will run to her lover’s arms,
Giving glory to Immanuel!

(For the whole song see here).

Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift. He is God with us (Immanuel) who makes a way for God to be for us and so allows God to live in us. Is there any better Christmas gift?

For more on Christmas please also see:

4 Lessons We Learn From Christmas

Why You Cannot Afford To Miss this Gift This Christmas

Is Father Christmas For Real?

What Is The Message Behind Christmas?