The other evening my family and I watched a movie on the Hallmark Channel about a young woman who reluctantly accepts a position as the doctor for a small town called Garland, Alaska. She finds the people there to be kind, welcoming, and overly zealous about Christmas. (She also finds a man in the diner there who looks a lot like Santa, but I won’t give away the ending!) In typical Hallmark Channel fashion, the woman is pulled between what she had planned for her life and what life now offers to her, and somehow the “magic of Christmas” helps her discover her dreams, leads her to true love, and restores the broken relationship she has with her father. Ah, such a sweet movie… isn’t the “magic of Christmas” a wonderful thing?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the magic of this season as much as the next person. I love to hear Christmas music; I love to see little children dressed as angels and shepherds and tiny wise men carrying gold-painted cigar boxes; I love the smell of a freshly-cut Christmas tree; I love to drive around and look at the Christmas lights; and I still love to watch Christmas specials like Rudolph and Frosty. My heart still warms whenever I hear Linus Van Pelt say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” It seems that for poor Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas had become buried under all the tinsel and holiday decorations. I wonder how many of us are in the same boat as Charlie Brown?
Christmas has become a two-sided coin. On the face, Christmas looks like shiny wrapping paper, twinkling lights, gingerbread houses, stockings over the fireplace, Santa Claus, families gathered around the tree, and (unfortunately) “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” played ad nauseum on the radio. All these things supposedly help us get in the mood for Christmas, and, in a sense, a lot of them do. But there’s another side of Christmas – a side that, sadly, many people refuse to recognize, and thus they’re not willing to turn the coin over to see the true meaning of Christmas.
What is Christmas really about? It’s not about magic, but about love. I’m not referring to the love between a starry-eyed couple in a Hallmark movie, but the love of God for His children and the rest of creation. Christmas is about God loving us enough to come into the world as a helpless baby born in a stable who would grow up to one day die on a cross on a hillside to save us from our sins. Christmas is not about a girl being brought back together with her father because of seasonal sentimentality – it’s about a sinful world being brought back together with its Father because He loved the world enough to give His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That’s what Christmas is all about.
By the way, it turns out that the old man eating cookies in the Garland Diner really is Santa Claus. (If you’ve not yet seen the movie, I apologize if I gave away the ending – but after all, it is theHallmark Channel, so you pretty much know how it’s going to end.) And it turns out the baby born in the manger really is the Son of God, born to save us from our sins. I will never apologize for giving away that endingI
See you in church!