Celebrating the coming of Jesus



As a child, it seemed that the whole of the year revolved around December 25th, and everything else served as either prelude or recovery time. Though I’m not entirely sure why, uncomfortable car rides, odd sleeping hours, seasonal foods, a well-lit coniferous tree, days off school and unusually happy people all marked the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The Christmas season never truly began in our household until my father cranked up his Mannheim Steamroller Christmas cassette tape and the smell of warming potpourri wafted through the air.

In a devoutly Christian family, we tried our best to “keep Christ in Christmas” and “remember the reason for the season,” but you could forgive us if we allowed our attention to be diverted despite the cliches — right? Most modern Christmas observances are cultural and nostalgic, but not essential to a true celebration of the birth of Jesus.

As an adult I have met sincere followers of Jesus who have no connection whatsoever to the modern celebration of Christmas, something I would have thought anathema in my childhood if I had only known the word. Many assume that as Christmas appears so pretty and warm and wonderful, it must be about the Christ-child. Sadly, for many it is not. It is a cultural holiday clouded at best from its genuine message, and at worst neutered of its meaning and significance.

If by fiat I could eliminate any Christmas connection to gift-giving and Santa Claus, I would do it happily in an instant as a first step in a good direction. Released from the suffocating nature of those things, in their place could bloom a renewed interest in the miracle of God’s love affair with humankind — a love affair not observed in every Abrahamic faith but certainly in the faiths called Christianity and Judaism.

When describing himself to Moses in Exodus 34, we read, “The LORD, the LORD, a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and truth.” Thousands of years later Jesus himself says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique son.” God is love, and his love for humankind is an essential component of a true celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Another essential theme surrounding true Christmas observance is hope, so lacking in our world. Without hope there exists only today, and today rarely meets our expectations. God promised his people Israel a redeemer, an anointed leader. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that this hope was

realized in his coming. While we enjoy the benefits of that today, we also hope for his earthly reign as King-Messiah.

The concepts of peace and joy round out any proper observance of the coming of Jesus to earth. While biblical peace constitutes something more akin to completeness and wholeness than simply the absence of strife, it is accompanied by strife, for peace is often hard won. But after such a struggle for peace comes joy — joy in God’s goodness to man, and God’s joy in giving good gifts to his children.

These four majestic concepts — hope, peace, joy, and love — are essential ideas when celebrating the birth of Jesus. They are also traditional themes utilized in succession by Christian churches of many denominations as the weekly candles of Advent. Advent means “coming” in Latin, and honoring these themes has served to redeem the season in our household from the cultural influences which seek to obscure and redefine it.

From our family to yours — May God bless you with a meaningful Christmas season!

Kyle A. Kettering graduated from Xenia Christian High School in 1998, Cedarville University in 2004, and Nyack’s Alliance Theological Seminary in 2017 with a degree in ancient Judaism and Christian origins. Kyle serves as a teaching elder at Church of the Messiah in Xenia.

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