It’s that time of year again. We’re decorating our houses, buying gifts for our loved ones, and finalizing our holiday menus. Christmas is almost here, and we’re getting ready to celebrate it with our family and friends.
But not everybody is happy this time of year. For some, it’s actually a really sad time. Maybe they’ve recently lost a loved one, or maybe they lost a loved one around this time many years ago and Christmas festivities always bring back painful memories for them. Whatever the reason, not everybody is full of Christmas cheer.
So what can these people do? Do they just have to resign themselves to missing out on the joy of the season, or is there something to celebrate no matter how bad things get? I would suggest that there is always a reason to celebrate Christmas, no matter how much pain and suffering we may be going through at the moment. Moreover, this isn’t just some sort of consolation prize or a last resort that we can grab onto if we can’t really get into the holiday. No, the reason to celebrate when we’re sad is actually the main thing that all of us should be celebrating no matter how we’re feeling or what we’re going through.
See, a lot of people have the wrong idea about Christmas. For some, it’s about celebrating the good things in our lives like our family and friends, and for others, it’s primarily a time of giving, a holiday when we think of the less fortunate and try to help them out a bit. Those are both great things in themselves, but they’re not what Christmas is really about.
Instead, Christmas is actually about our salvation. It celebrates the fact that God became man in order “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The whole purpose of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago was to save us from sin and death and bring us to the day when “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more” (Revelation 21:4), so that is what Christmas is truly about.
Now, this isn’t to say that those other things people celebrate are entirely out of place. They can be legitimate ways to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. For instance, we can recognize and be thankful for all of God’s blessings because they’re a foretaste of the heavenly bliss we’ll experience when our salvation is complete. Likewise, giving to the poor is a great way to celebrate our salvation because it allows us to do on a very small scale what Jesus did on a much larger, more universal scale. In fact, as long as we realize that those things aren’t what the holiday is ultimately about, we should do them.
But at the end of the day, we don’t celebrate Christmas because everything is right with the world. No, we celebrate it precisely because there’s so much wrong with it. We celebrate it because Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was a key step in God’s plan to save us from everything that’s wrong, and all our Christmas celebrations should reflect that. Whether we give to the poor, enjoy time with our family and friends, or do something else, our celebration of Christmas should always focus on the fact that God became man to save us from sin and death. And no matter how we’re feeling or what we’re going through, whether we’re happy or sad, whether we have Christmas joy or not, that’s something all of us can and should celebrate.