As Western society drifts further from her Christian moorings, holidays such as Christmas begin to lose their meaning. More people begin to wonder what is the big deal about Christmas.
As an apologist, I have talked with many an unbeliever and read many a book that illustrate this simple fact. Most likely the church has not been making this message clear. So, in the spirit of dialogue and clarification, I would like to explain the real meaning of Christmas.
The Bad News
The good news of Christmas only makes sense in contrast to the bad news of sin. The bad news is that all mankind is bound in iniquity. As a tiger desires meat, so sinners desire sin.
Now, this desire to transgress the right to accomplish the wrong does not mean that everyone will be an ax murderer. Rather God withholds these impulses in mankind through the external threat of the Law and the internal power of the Spirit. Furthermore, 'sin' as understood in traditional Protestantism is not defined as overt or gross violations of any kind of law but a violation of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments being a summary thereof. Everyone everywhere in whatever they do are to work for the glory of God.
The Law includes not only controlling one's outward actions but the inward thoughts as well. Envy, anger and lust transgress God's requirements. And it is not simply the 'big' sins that count as violations of this Law but even the little white lie is sufficient to condemn. With such a strict code of justice, many wonder if anyone can stand before the bar of God's judgment and be declared innocent. The biblical answer is this:
For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:9-12)
In God's law-court no one is innocent. All are guilty. Humankind is hopelessly lost.
Conceptually, such truths make sense. Guilty violators of the laws of society are punished. This claim is no different in principle. However, it is certainly hard to comprehend emotionally.
Even so, such a framework of viewing reality is internally coherent and corresponds with the data of history. Men fight, lie and hate each other, even turning altruistic goals into hidden acts of greed. The twentieth-century certainly testifies to the depraved nature of men and women. On the other hand, humans have not completely eradicated themselves and many people sacrifice their time and energy for each other. But they do not love and protect for God's glory. This demonstrates the common benevolence of God, preserving men and women in spite of themselves.
This black and bleak background sheds much light on the proper significance of Christmas.