I’ve decided that Christmas is as two-toned as the colors we most often associate with the holiday. One is primary, the other secondary, both attractive but completely divergent. In the same way, we have a primary purpose for Christmas, the celebration of Christ come down—and a secondary, the gift-giving family time with all the tree-decorating, carol-singing, candle-lighting traditions. Both are attractive, but unless a person intentionally connects the two, they will be quite divergent.
I was reminded of this when one of the local Christian radio stations claimed they played Christmas music “with a difference,” then proceeded to air “Frosty, the Snowman.” Yes different, I thought—it’s different that the station thought there was anything different about that particular secular song over some other secular song.
C. S. Lewis in Miracles (MacMillian) made some profound observations that apply to the primary purpose of Christmas:
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. (chapter 14, p. 112)
In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity … down to the very roots and sea-bed of Nature. … One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too. (chapter 14, p. 116)
May our Christmas include some recognition and celebration of Immanuel, God with us, God come down to bring us up with Him.
This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in December 2007.