Our best loves are those we can’t fully explain: a flavor that grabs us, a partner who gets us, a place with roots in our heart.
The Christmas season is obviously here, and while some feel more darkness than light during these days, many moments are filled with a warmth that can’t be measured. But why?
Apart from the family and food, travel and traditions, gifts and surprises, why do we love Christmas?
The rise of materialist assumptions about the universe has slowly eroded any deeper sense of meaning about our world, our origins, our purpose, and our destiny. When you’ve fallen into the rut of assuming that what we can touch is all that exists, you slowly find yourself at a party of mannequins feasting on plastic fruit. Everything is stripped of its God-given meaning. But humans are still humans, made in God’s image, endowed with an unspeakable weight of significance we can’t bring ourselves to deny. Even celebrations of Christmas that are more cultural than Christian bring the incarnation of Christ close to our modern world, reintroducing a depth of story and meaning whose warmth we can’t quite escape. We want meaning in our lives, and whenever we sense its loss, we start searching far and wide to recover it. This is why the soul awakens, even if slightly, when it reencounters the incarnation of Christ. We are reentering a story pregnant with the very hope of the cosmos.
Along with the loss of meaning in our age has come a loss of mystery. Each advance in science or technology subtly promises to unveil the mysteries of the cosmos and demystify our existence. Whether the field is genetics, medicine, machine intelligence, or space travel, we’re swept up in thinking that final answers lie behind the next unlocked door.
But the Christmas season invites us back into the dusty old tomes we’ve laid aside and reignites our imaginations with an ancient vocabulary of gardens and temples, serpents and stars, covenants and kings, prophets and priests, even heaven and earth. We remember a star in the east, a virgin birth, a heavenly host, and the dawn of a long-awaited kingdom. We’re re-intrigued by the creaking burdens of prophecy, the long nights of waiting, the heavy hopes of the faithful, and the gasping thrill at dawn’s first light.
The incarnation forces us to admit—with great joy—that mysteries still exist, that there’s as much between the lines as in the words, and that God has not authored a story that can be told in a quick moment or a short chapter. When God becomes man, the story runs long, and the mysteries burn bright.
Finally, despite all its busyness and haste, its tension and travel, its platitudes and distortions, the Christmas season is a call to rest. The incarnation of Christ is the coming of a good king, one whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. He came in humility, which is the last way we expected him to come.
He didn’t come to dominate, to throw down, to beat us at our own game. He didn’t come to treat us like we treat each other. He came in a different way, to show us a better way, to become the way home to God. He came in humility.
Ambition is exhausting, yet we can’t give it up. We’re constantly seeking to have more, do more, and be more. But here comes Christmas—here comes Christ—in his small town, with his teenage mom, with his servant’s towel. Here he comes to play with kids and wash feet and touch lepers and feed the hungry. Here he comes with love for the hateful, hope for the fearful, faith for the faithless. Here he comes, with no reason for humility, serving those with no warrant for pride.
Almost no one comes to us like this anymore, except those rare people in our lives who seem more angelic than human. Even then, the warmth of their humility still can’t hold a candle to the one who came from heaven to love us, serve us, and save us.
This Christmas season, as in every season, we’re all hungry for meaning, mystery, and humility. We want to be drawn up into something that counts, something that matters, something with meaning; we all want a world with some magic and mystery, where the inscrutable parts are the best parts; and we all thirst for a deeper and more satisfying humility, the kind that makes us forget ourselves in the most freeing ways.
Christmas reminds us of all three: meaning, mystery, and humility. Perhaps these are three simple reasons we love Christmas, three simple ways that Christ warms our hearts.