What is the real meaning of Christmas?

What do you consider most significant about Christmas? Many people would say visiting with relatives, attending parties, or giving and receiving gifts. For believers, however, Christmas is far more than a December holiday with time off from work. It is a personal promise from God to mankind.

The significance of this special day is embodied in two scriptural names. In the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 verse 21, an angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary, his fiancée, would bear a son conceived of the Holy Spirit. He instructed Joseph to name the child “Jesus”. He also announced that the birth would fulfil Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 7 verse 14: ‘They shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with us’

Let’s examine the two names in this passage—Jesus and Immanuel. The name “Jesus” is a transcription of the Old Testament Hebrew word Joshua, meaning “the Lord is salvation.” When the angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” , he was pointing to the significance of that original Christmas when God provided a solution for your sin and mine, as well as for the sin of the entire world—past, present, and future.

Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, Isaiah’s prophecy was a word of hope and encouragement to Judah as it faced great crisis. The prophet’s message was an indication of what God was about to do then as well as what would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah’s advent. Immanuel, a name full of promise, was God’s way of assuring the Old Testament saints that He was with them. Taken together, these two names encompass what we need for our entire lives: Jesus, the pardoner of our sins, and Immanuel, the divine presence within us to help and guide every moment of every day. The names and the promises in them are the foundation for every facet of Christian life.

So how did God engineer that first Christmas to fulfil the promises of Jesus and Immanuel? His method was the incarnation. On the night Christ was born, the eternal God—motivated by love—entered the human family. He was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit and physically born of a virgin. Jesus never ceased to be God, and He remained perfectly sinless in His being.

If the incarnation hadn’t taken place exactly as it did, then we would still be living in our sin because the scriptures in the book of Romans chapter 6 verses 23 say that, the punishment for sin is death. Apart from the birth of God in human flesh, every one of us would have to stand before God with all of our sin resting upon us, and our sins would separate us from Him.

But that was not the full extent of God’s awesome plan. He also promised us His presence, which was fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel. Jesus was “God with us,” the incarnate Deity, who physically lived and walked among men to show us what the heavenly Father is like.

Far better than God simply being “with me” is God within me, for me, and through me! And that is His promise to every generation of believers—the incomparable, supernatural, immeasurable God will take up residence inside of us and be everything we need. Once He lives within you, there will never be a time when you have to walk without Him.

This year, as we gather on Christmas morning, I encourage you and your family to kneel and give thanks to almighty God. The incarnation is the very essence of Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with the gifts or festivities, as long as they don’t crowd out what belongs in first place: Christmas is about God breaking into humanity, shattering time, and becoming life, hope, and help to all mankind.

The author is a graduate student of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, a Communications Specialist, and a preacher of the Word of God.