Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Jingle bells and ho, ho, ho. We are in the midst of the chaos affectionately known as the Christmas holidays. It’s a chaos that seems to start earlier every year. As much as we all affirm to each other that Christmas is not about consumerism or materialism, our actions seem to indicate this is not the case. From Black Friday brawls to the Christmas Eve rush for that last-minute stocking stuffer, we’re a culture that’s consumed with consumerism. In all honesty, what’s so merry about Christmas? It’s often full of stress from strained relationships, no relationships, or one too many swipes of the credit card. Not even Starbucks’ red cups can fully drive away the nagging sentiment that things aren’t quite right. Is there more? This mess can’t be all there is.
Into this mess the message of the Incarnation, God becoming a Man, resounds. It challenges us to consider why Christmas is merry. It speaks to us about what it means for God to be with us, where true freedom comes from, and the hope of light in the midst of darkness.
Our consumer-happy world is nothing new. Into the chaos of a broken and materialistic culture two thousand years ago, a baby was born with the name Immanuel, which means God with Us. For the follower of Jesus, this is the heart of Christmas. God Himself in Jesus took on humanity. He dwelt among us. Let’s be honest though, do we really want God with us? Is it all that comforting to think of Him living next door or down the hall? A God far away who does His own thing while we do ours is fine. Let Him worry about cosmic things while we go about our own business. We’d rather Him not walk among us, seeing how we live, gazing at us with eyes that penetrate our masquerade of living. Or maybe we long for Him to be with us, but we see the tragedy that our lives have become and wonder why He watches silently from the sidelines. If God is with us, why aren’t things better?
The wonder of Christmas is that in the Incarnation God chose to dwell among humanity with all of our fragility and brokenness. He came as a baby in poverty and became the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. He chose to fully identify with us, showing us the chaos and futility we’ve created and the peace He freely offers. His life penetrates our living masquerade with the hope of freedom. He has not sat quietly on the sidelines and left us to drown in the filth we created. He entered the filth with us and for us. He dwelt with us to die for us and offers to rescue us from death itself. Into a chaotic world consumed with self and materialism He was born in poverty to die in scorned obscurity. In the words of John Donne, this is the God who dwelt among us, this is why He came.
“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost a sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the cradle to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.”
What’s so merry about Christmas? God is with us. Will you welcome Him to dwell with you?
 John Donne, “Christmas Day, 1626,” in Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 7:279.