Growing up in a Jewish home, surrounded by Jewish friends and neighbors, I never really understood the meaning of Christmas beyond its commercial expressions. This seemingly extravagant birthday party meant nothing to me, because I did not know the person whose birth was celebrated. Later in college, after an intense period of seeking after truth, I personally encountered Jesus the Messiah, and my once superficial understanding of Christmas took on life-altering significance.
I love that the prologue of the Gospel according to Saint John is the reading for this Christmas Day because it points us to the true meaning of Christmas.
John the Beloved was captured by the Life; he saw the essence of what Jesus’ coming meant. The miraculous event in Bethlehem initiated a rescue mission, the final chapter in human history. The eternal, divine Life that was with the Father, broke into time and space, into the darkness, to give us something we did not have and could never obtain on our own. The heart of Christianity is the giving and receiving of new, stronger-than-death, divine life. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons states simply the profound truth of the Incarnation: “He became what we are so that we might become what he is.” (source)
At Christmas, we celebrate not only the reality that God became a tiny, helpless child, but that in uniting His divine life to human flesh, He gave us the power to become His children, not through pedigree, or striving, but through faith in His Son. What an immeasurable, transformative gift we have received from the Heart of Love! It’s worthy of a joyful celebration that endures beyond one day or a season, and it’s a gift that must be shared.
In Jesus, God made His dwelling in human flesh, so that we might become living tabernacles of His Divine Life. Christianity isn’t a higher moral code or a philosophy, it is living the very life of God as His beloved children and reflecting His Light in the darkness of an unbelieving world.
So, when others ask, “What did you get for Christmas?” let’s use it as an opportunity to offer them the most precious Gift of all—divine life in the Son of God.
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Debra Herbeck, a Jewish convert to the Church, has worked extensively in youth and women’s ministry. She has directed Pine Hills Girls Camp for the past 32 years, is the founder and Director of the Be Love Revolution, and also helps lead a ministry called i.d.916. She has written a number of books that can be found here. Debra and her husband Peter live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and are the parents of four children and five adorable grandchildren.