Christmas time is not my favourite time if I’m honest. I worked in marketing and advertising for many years, and if I have to produce one more Christmas sale TV ad or hear one more cheesy commercialised carol it will get me depressed. Right up until Christmas eve that is, when all of that stops and the smell of baked goods begin to fill the home. Seems like the whole world stops actually - it’s beautiful. On every continent people stop to spend time with their family and friends and celebrate by giving gifts and eating together. Christmas is contagious. Chances are, even if you don’t believe in God, you can connect with the concept of Christmas. Simply put, it’s about giving. God gave, and we celebrate that by giving to each other.
However, the way our society today defines God is far from a giving, generous God. We’ve painted our own picture of a god that demands our obedience, that delights in vengeance, that burns children in the fires of hell and restricts our freedoms. What a tyrant! And so we have dismissed with Him altogether, and with good reason! Who would want to believe in a God like that?
What now? With God out of the picture, where do I find the answers to all the hard questions? What can I believe? Can I believe materialism? Evolution tells me that I am nothing more than a random chance construction of an unguided process that took billions of years. It tells me right and wrong is whatever we all agree upon. It tells me very little about my purpose, meaning, belonging - all the things my own humanity is starving for. And so we are left to define our own meaning and construct our own purpose for existence.
I’m a simple kind of person. When I look at the world I see beauty, I see irreducible complexity, I see artistry - as the famous scientist Richard Dawkins puts it: I see “design”. But I also see a world that is hurting, that is hateful, self-destructive and in need of intervention.
Do I believe in spirituality? Yes, I must. It is something almost every human knows instinctively and has experienced in some form. I have experienced it in my own life, I can’t ignore that. I follow Jesus, because he is the perfect example that I would like to follow. If everyone loved their enemies, if everyone worked to heal those around them, if we all lived to serve our neighbours - our world would be healed in a single generation. This is Jesus. This is what it means to be Christian. It’s a life of giving. There is no other world view that is “other-centred” like Christianity. The reason for our suffering as a species is selfishness. The key to our restoration is love.
I don’t know where you are in life right now, you could be busy working on your career, you could be running a successful business, you could be struggling to make ends meet. Do you want to know what will bring you the most fulfilment? Live for others. Give! Give! Give! Give until you have no shirt left on your back and you’ll still be happy! And in doing so you will heal those around you, inspire hope and build dignity in others. It’s so counter-intuitive. Many of us are stuck in a feedback loop of suffering to selfishness which creates only more suffering. This is the reason Christianity talks about “Salvation”!
So what is Christmas? God came to earth, entered our temporal existence to reveal himself. Without revelation we cannot know God, we cannot see outside our own universe no more than a character in a play can reach out to their writer. So He enters our existence! He lives the life of a human. Why? Because we have misunderstood, misquoted and misrepresented Him throughout history and He is desperate to reveal to us what He really is like, His true motives for creating us, His original design for life and His desire for us to live a full, abundant and happy life, in the same way you want your child who you have nurtured and loved to live a full and happy life.
2000 years ago Christianity spread through the world because it answered to our deepest needs: purpose, meaning, belonging. However, there’s a catch. If you want Christianity, you need to learn to give. Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give”. You don’t follow Jesus for your own benefit, you do it for those around you. These are the rules of the Kingdom.
Whether you care about the facts of God’s existence or not, that’s up to you. But I want to challenge you to think about something today: Why do you live the way that you live? Are you living for yourself? Or are you living for others? Are you just floating obliviously through life or do you care about the impact your actions have on those around you? God compels me to love you as a brother and a sister, regardless of how you treat me. I deeply respect and admire that worldview. That’s the kingdom I want to be a part of: A world full of givers.