The Pew Research Center recently released a survey about Christmas and how Americans view the holiday. As is often the case with surveys, there was good news and bad news.
The good news is that 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas. The bad news? Only 46% say they celebrate Christmas primarily as a religious holiday. A significant percentage of Americans do not believe the central elements of the biblical Christmas story. There is a great teachable moment here.
As you gather with friends and family members in the days ahead, here’s a brief “tutorial” on Christmas, just in case you happen to encounter someone who is confused about what they are celebrating.
The angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, where he told Mary, still a virgin: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High… his kingdom will never end.“ (Luke 1:30-33)
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to participate in the Roman census. "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:6-7)
The birth of Jesus, God’s only Son, split all of human history in half. And lowly shepherds were among the first to learn of the Good News. "An angel of the Lord appeared to them … said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’" (Luke 2:10-14)
Why do we celebrate this birth that took place so long ago?
Because after the angels announced the Good News of Christ’s birth, the blind saw. The lame walked. The cross beckoned. Our Savior, the perfect lamb, climbed it! Our sins were washed away. The stone was rolled away. Death was defeated. The gates of hell did not prevail.
Nothing in our culture can compare to that! No gift that we will give or receive compares to that which God in His mercy gave us.
That is what we are celebrating, my friends.