Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

Celebrating the Birth of the Messiah

by Karen Gushta, Ph.D.

How do you and your family celebrate Christmas? The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time of celebration with parties and social events, Christmas pageants and concerts filling our calendars.

Typically we think of Christmas as a family time. We look forward to family members visiting us for the holidays. Or if they can’t join us, we try to shop early and mail their gifts in time for them to receive them by Christmas. In preparation for family gatherings we plan holiday menus and put up Christmas decorations with Christmas lights and candles giving our homes a special warmth and inviting glow.

But for some, the Christmas holidays are a time of sadness. Those who have lost a loved one during the past year find the holidays full of painful reminders of their loss. It is often difficult for those who have experienced the death of a spouse or had a relationship severed through divorce or abandonment to join in the festivities. (According to one study, suicide rates jump significantly following the Christmas holidays.)

And so, Christmas brings a time to not only celebrate His birth, but also to share it with others. It provides the chance to reach out to those who need our compassion and care. In the midst of all our busyness and preparations, there are many opportunities to share the Gospel and engage others in conversations about Jesus. Asking the simple question, “How do you celebrate Christmas?” can lead to an opportunity to share not only how we celebrate but also why we do so—because God sent His greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins.

Many churches have special services on Christmas Eve—which along with Easter is one of the few times of the year when many nominal Christians attend church. That could include our neighbors, and an invitation to come with us to church on Christmas Eve might be welcome. And so may a plate of cookies or a plant accompanied by a Christmas card that reflects the message of Christmas.

In the Old Testament, in Leviticus 23, the Israelites were instructed to celebrate seven feasts throughout the year: Passover, followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then over the course of the year, the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Each of these feasts of celebration provided opportune times for fathers and mothers to reiterate and reinforce to their children the significance and reason behind each of these feasts and to teach their children about God’s special covenant relationship with the children of Israel.

While we are preparing for our family Christmas celebrations, we can forge memories and family traditions that will last a lifetime as we share these activities with our children or grandchildren. Buying the Christmas tree, making cookies, wrapping packages for absent family members, serving together at a food bank, or putting together a shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse or buying a gift for an Angel Tree child are all the more meaningful when they are done as a family.

What are your family traditions for celebrating Christmas? Family customs give us the opportunity to pass down family values and beliefs to our children, who will in turn, pass them on to their children. The sights and smells and sounds associated with our Christmas celebrations are tangible ways our children and grandchildren can learn of the deeper meaning and true reasons for our celebration, if we will take the time to instruct them along the way. In all of our preparations, let’s not forget to reiterate and reinforce to our children and grandchildren the reasons why we are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah.