What does Christmas mean?

Dec 26, 2017 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Despite not preaching at Christmas services this year, for some reason I have found myself thinking about the meaning of Christmas more this year than most. To stimulate your thinking this Christmas Day, I simply offer two things—one ancient, the other modern, neither mine. The ancient focuses on the meaning of Christmas—or rather the incarnation—for God. The modern focuses on the potential meaning of Christmas for us.

The ancient is an extract from Augustine’s sermons on the nativity, in this case Sermon 191. He beautifully expounds the paradox of the incarnation, drawing on a wide range of ideas from the gospels and the teaching and claims of Jesus, and showing how the incarnation involves that Great Reversal of God becoming human—in Paul’s words, that great ‘self emptying’ of God in Jesus (Phil 2.7), in which he lets go of the riches of his glory in order to embrace our poverty, that we might gain his riches. (2 Cor 8.9).

The modern is from King’s Church, Edinburgh, a Baptist church which now associates itself with the NewFrontiers network. I was captivated by this video in the way that it connected the mystery of the incarnation with the transcendent longing of human life that we see all around us. The closing shots offer a wordless invitation, through the extended visual metaphor of the closed door, perhaps alluding to the invitation of Jesus made in Rev 3.20: ‘I stand at the door and knock’. This Christmas, will we receive the one who comes near? Will we open our doors to him, and will we hold out the invitation to others to open the doors of their lives to him too?

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