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FIRST-PERSON: What makes Christmas so special?

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–In Dr. Seuss’s classic tale “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” the malevolent main character discovers that Christmas cannot be thwarted. Try as he might, the Grinch is unable to steal, stifle or subdue the Christmas celebration of the Whos who inhabit Whoville.

Even the Whos understand that the reason for Christmas is not to be found in gifts, feasts or decorations. Christmas is a celebration that takes place in the heart.

While the good doctor’s holiday tale is not inherently Christian, it does illustrate that Christmas is essentially a spiritual matter — a contemplation of the soul.

Those familiar with Seuss’s story know that the reason the Grinch could not comprehend the Whos’ zeal for Christmas is because his heart was “two sizes too small.”

Dr. Seuss demonstrated simply and profoundly that the reality of Christmas does not exist in external symbols. Much of what is associated with Christmas these days has little or nothing to do with why the holiday is so special.

Decorated trees, blinking lights, singing-dancing snowmen, Santa and his flying reindeer have no connection whatsoever with the essence and reality that is Christmas.

Many who celebrate Christmas believe the significance centers on the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the season’s significance transcends the mere fact that Jesus was born.

The only people who celebrate a birth, for the sake of the birth, are family and friends. In order for someone’s birth to be honored by a nation, much less the world, the person must achieve a great deal during his or her lifetime.

In America we remember the birth of certain presidents because of a unique or significant contribution to our country.

Columbus has long been honored because his voyage across the Atlantic opened the door for colonization of the new world. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered for his courageous leadership in the cause of civil rights.

What did Jesus do that was so significant that the world should pause to remember His birth? In his relatively short life, he wrote no books, made no earth-shaking discovery and he led no political movement. So, why do people the world over celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Perhaps it is Jesus’ death that makes his birth worth commemorating?

The Bible details the nature of Jesus’ earthly demise. Each of the Gospel writers relates the horrific reality of Christ’s crucifixion. However, the fact that Jesus suffered a tortuous death is not, by itself, justification for the world to remember his death.

What is it that makes Christmas so special? It is not because Jesus lived a virtuous life or died a tragic death. What makes Christ’s birth so significant is the awesome reality that Jesus conquered death.

The Bible boldly proclaims that three days after Jesus was crucified He rose from the dead. The resurrection is the exclamation point on the life of Christ. The resurrection is why Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The significance of the resurrection as it relates to Christmas cannot be stressed enough. When Jesus walked on earth He claimed to be God in the flesh. Had He died and remained in the grave, His claims would have been dismissed. However, an empty tomb and subsequent appearances to His followers validated his “outrageous” pronouncements.

What makes Christmas so very significant, so special, is Easter.

The Grinch learned that Christmas cannot be thwarted. It is not a celebration dependent on symbols or external motivation. It is a celebration of the heart.

While the masses may bury the Gospel truth under gifts, trees, tinsel and lights, the fact remains that the reason for the season is a crucified and risen Savior.

May our hearts be enlarged this Noel in order to accommodate the whole Christmas story — which includes the cross and the empty tomb.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs