What does Christmas mean to you?

As Christmas was approaching quickly, a young man started thinking about what he could give his father, who lived far away. He wanted to get him something special, something that would show how much he valued him. He looked around and found something he thought would be unique, special, and unusual. It was an exotic parakeet.

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 3.48.32 AMIt was so unique that it could speak five different languages. It was a most unusual bird, and it cost ten thousand dollars. This guy thought for sure that this bird would show his father how much he loved him. He purchased the bird and had it shipped to his father. He called his father on Christmas Day. He said, “Dad, did you get my gift?” His father said, “I certainly did, son.” The man said, “Well, Dad, how did you like it?” His dad replied, “Oh, it was delicious!” His dad obviously missed the point. Unfortunately, many of us miss the point of the gift of giving at Christmas. We forget about what really matters.

Have you been in a situation that drastically changed the way you think about life? I will never forget the feeling of fear that came over me on a cold December Sunday afternoon a little over ten years ago in Charlotte, NC. Madi, my oldest daughter, was around three-years-old at the time and had been feeling a little sick all morning. She was running a slight temperature, but her symptoms had not been serious. In a moment, that dramatically changed. My wife ran into the room with Madi in her arms, screaming, “HELP! MADI HAS STOPPED BREATHING!”

Emergency and urgency, dialing 911 on smartphone screen.I took Madi into my arms and urgently told my wife, Wendy, to call 911 while I tried to figure out what was happening. Madi was still not breathing, her face was beginning to turn blue, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. I frantically laid her down on the ground and started to give her mouth to mouth resuscitation with hopes of stabilizing her until help came. Nothing I did seemed to help. She laid there limp, and as time went by, I began to deal with the thought that she might die in front of me if she didn’t start breathing. It was just her and me there on the ground, and I was as powerless as she was.

Realizing there was nothing I could do, I prayed and asked God to help “my” daughter. It was at that moment a thought came into my mind, and a feeling entered into my heart that has stuck with me since. “My” daughter is God’s daughter first, and only He could control what happened next. I quickly realized this beautiful little girl is only on loan to me. She is not mine. She has been entrusted to my care by God, who loves her, and only He is in control of her life. At that moment, I let go. I submitted and prepared for whatever the Father had for us in the moments to come. My love for God and His love for me overpowered my fear.

To make a long story short, Madi made it to the emergency room and recovered sufficiently from what we found out was a significant febrile seizure. As scary as that moment was, it continues to be a powerful reminder to me as a parent that God is in control and that He loves me. The love I felt from Him at that moment was so powerful that it overpowered my fear. In all of the circumstances we experience in life, God’s love is intense and passionate to meet us before, through, and beyond our time of need.

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 3.50.53 AMLet me ask you a question. What are you afraid of? People are afraid of all kinds of things. We have names for a lot of fears. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Claustrophobia is the fear of tight spaces. Peladophobia is the fear of bald people. Perhaps the most ironic of them all is phobophobia, a fear of phobias. God’s love replaces fear. Let me submit to you that this is because of humility.

We see humility in the big picture of the Christmas story. Luke wrote that “all the world” was to be registered. This included the entire Roman Empire. The decree for “all the world” to be registered was issued by Caesar Augustus, who was the reigning emperor. He is arguably the most significant person in Roman history.

IMG_4442We also see the humility of the setting. Luke wrote that Christ was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. Jesus was treated like any other baby and was born in a smelly, filthy, chilly shelter, surrounded by noisy animals. The word “manger” is the word for a feeding trough. Troughs could be found anywhere animals were kept. The announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ was the greatest good news that the world has ever heard. But what does it mean?

Christmas can become an excuse for self-indulgence, materialism, and partying. In many ways, it has degenerated into an event that misses its true meaning entirely. We sometimes have an adventure in missing the point. Many things pollute the simple, yet profound, meaning of Christmas. So, what does Christmas mean to you? Do you get it? Martin Luther confessed, “When I am told that God became man, I can follow the idea, but I just do not understand what it means.” Let me suggest that it means God loves you, and he loves me. God’s love replaces fear because of humility.