Have you ever wondered why Christmas isn’t celebrated in the New Testament? Didn’t Joseph and Mary have a birthday party for Jesus when he was one year old, or ten, or sweet sixteen? I am not aware of any reference to the disciples holding any annual celebration for the birth of Jesus and exchanging gifts although I can just hear Peter exclaiming, “alright, a new fishing rod!” or Salome trying on her new sandals saying “these are so comfortable!” Actually, the event seems to receive very little attention after its initial blurb in Matthew and Luke. The other authors of the biographies of Jesus seem to have missed it completely. Mark and John begin by skipping to the preaching of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus. Even Paul doesn’t mention anything about it getting together for Christmas or helping Silas put up the Christmas lights.
Although they may not have celebrated in the way our culture does today, (I actually do not believe the disciples exchanged gifts at Christmas, but I do think they celebrated the entire time he was here on earth.) we must realize the abrupt change Jesus brought to their concept of God. He was Immanuel, which of course means God is with us. To them, that was a new concept. All of their forefathers had to go to the Temple to be with God, or rather for God to be with them. This was cause for celebration!
Jesus made clear that it was okay for his disciples to enjoy their time with Him while he was still with them on earth. God was with them. How appropriate, right? Remember when the people asked Jesus why the Pharisees and disciples of John the Baptist fasted, but His disciples didn’t? He pretty much said, “You can fast some other time, but I’m here now so let’s be happy!”
The disciples celebrated the fact that God was with them. Isn’t this what we are celebrating today? Sure, I know we are celebrating the birth of Jesus as we think of his coming as the one who would be our Redeemer. I’m not here to dampen your spirits, even if it does seem like we are celebrating an outdated form of God. I realize why we do it. But as we celebrate Jesus being born as our King and Savior and hear sermons, send cards, and sing carols about Emmanuel and the nativity, let’s not forget to focus on God being with us today.
Mostly I think we celebrate that our family is with us (or in some cases not with us…just kidding!). We generally think of it as a time for getting together, eating, and fellowshipping. This apparently is our expression of our celebration, and that’s okay. Since it’s impossible to get together with Jesus to throw one of his infamous eating and drinking parties with Levi or his morally questionable friends, we can celebrate with the much better, improved, and ever present form of [himself, God] that we tend to forget – the Holy Spirit. (He is a He, by the way, not an it.) Think about it for more than 2 seconds…it kind of makes you go crazy trying to wrap your mind around it.
So just let it out! God came to earth to save us! Jesus was born! He died for us! He loves us like crazy! He gave us his Holy Spirit to live inside us! It’s Christmas! Let’s celebrate!
Note: The credit for my inspiration came from a book title. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to read the book “Jesus, Continued: Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You” as soon I can. You can check it out here. EDIT: I read it! It is very good!