‘Christmas’ (from Crīstesmæsse or Christ’s Mass), also known as The Nativity of the Lord, is one of the most important celebrations in the Christian tradition.
The meaning of this feast, however, can only be understood fully when viewed through the event of the passion (suffering), death, and resurrection of Christ, which remains the central mystery of the Christian experience.
In and through the birth of the Christ-child, divine life became grafted into human existence, into the human form of life, resulting in its transformation or salvation. Think about it this way: When we insert a shoot or twig of a rose as a graft into a wild rose, the wild rose eventually becomes transformed into a new plant with new, enhanced characteristics. In a similar way, then, Divine Life (in Christian terminology, the Second Person of the Trinity) entering human existence, became grafted into the human form of life and, from within, changed it for ever. Christ’s life became the standard of human life.
The meaning of this became fully articulated and shown in the life of Christ. His teaching, in word and action, is the form of human life that all human beings, as images and likenesses of God, are called to participate in by imitating it. At the heart of this revelation of the new and enhanced human life – of who God is for us humans and who are we for God – is sacrificial love, the minimum measure of which is justice.
The full and ultimate nature of this sacrificial love has been demonstrated in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Christians refer to this as the ‘Easter experience.’
The true gift of Christmas, therefore, transcends every form of sentimentalism or commercialism, no matter how well intended. The true gift of Christmas is a new form of human life that is truly worth living.