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What Do We Mean When We Say “True Meaning Of Christmas?”

Mike Cosper has a wonderful post on the ironic, violent meaning of Christmas. Here’s an outtake…

Christmas is violent. It’s earth-shattering. The very order of things, the way the world worked, was being rewritten. In 1811, an earthquake in Missouri caused church bells to ring in Philadelphia and made the Mississippi River run backwards. When the Christ-child gasped his first breath, the hinge of history swung in a new direction, and hell shuddered. The assault on its gates had begun.

We celebrate Christmas right at the Winter Solstice—a bit of metaphorical genius, if you ask me (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere). Right as the year reaches its coldest, just as the nights get their longest and darkest, we open our Bibles and read,

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).

Historically, the church observed Advent in the month before Christmas, a month of fasting and anticipation. I grew up in churches that skipped the fasts and dove straight into the fa-la-la’s. Discovering Advent was like discovering Good Friday. A deep well of meaning gave Christmas wider and broader dimensions. For all of Christmas’s cause for celebration, there’s an accompanying need to awaken our minds to the surrounding desperation. The world was, and remains in many ways, in darkness. Christmas is part of that glorious already/not-yet tension, where the finished song of redemption awaits the “Amen!” of restoration. We celebrate Christmas in a broken and fallen world, in broken and fallen churches full of broken and fallen people.

Whatever we do in these coming days, let’s not miss the truly epic story of irony and violence that is the “true meaning” of Christmas.

Read the whole post.

3 Comments

  1. I would have been sorry to miss this. It fits right in with what God has been teaching me about the “glorious already/not-yet tension, where the finished song of redemption awaits the ‘Amen!’ of restoration.” This dose of reality is much appreciated-thanks for linking up. A (messy yet) Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (hang with me here) is in my heart this Advent. When the White Witch slays Aslan and cries victory? I get angry at her and weep with hope for she doesn’t win. Her indignation somehow emboldens me. But I feel a little of that same hastiness towards the festive attitude of Christmas. It weighs heavy on my heart that we celebrate his birth because we need his death. Cosper’s right- this Christmas thing is violent. And I know very soon after Christmas comes Lent, comes Good Friday, comes the Triduum and I have to walk through his death again. We will win, we will cry victory, but in this thin sky of waiting, the fa-la-las seem a little misplaced in my soul at times.

  3. Thanks, Sondorik and Ashley Elizabeth (what a great Christmas name –I love Elizabeth, as a character, person).

    Already/Not yet indeed. I love this time of year and the tension/resolution hovering.

    Advent is so helpful for this, isn’t it? The idea of engaging in his first coming, while longing for his second seems to place us where we belong. I love it.

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