It’s over. Everyone is back to work and school. The playlists have been tucked away for another eleven months (okay, I might cheat in June), the tree has been untrimmed, and the leftovers eaten.

But I’m still thinking about it.

No, not the gifts (though I did get some fantastic ones), and not the decor. Not the movies (“Vermont. Should be beautiful this time of year, all that snow!”), or the favorite family traditions, or the cookie and fudge supply that is waning—though I do think about that every so often.

Not the poor sheep watchers, the rich guys, or the young mother and her new husband. Not the crazed narcissistic king, or the terror-inducing angels in the dead of night. Not even the baby asleep in a sad excuse for a nursery.

But I’m still thinking about it.

I’m still thinking about the Truth of Christmas, which has little to do with a stable, a manger, some shepherds and a crude delivery room.

The Truth of Christmas isn’t just that a baby was born, however coincidental, miraculous, or perplexing it may have been. Lots of babies were probably born that day. And Jesus probably was not the only boy to be born in Bethlehem or the surrounding villages that night.

Jesus’ birth is not what makes Christmas so awesome.

Before you dismiss me on account of blasphemy, keep reading. 

Jesus’ birth is an awesome thing to contemplate, but it isn’t the good news of Christmas. In fact, the opposite is—Jesus’ death. The significance of the manger is given only by the cross.*

Every December we think of the birth of Christ and wonder at the little baby in the manger. Awww, isn’t He precious? Sure, all babies are. (Keep reading.) But without the reality of His death—the cross and the deserted grave thirtyish years later, Jesus was just another baby born under unique circumstances while his parents were on a business trip. Without the cross, the manger means nothing.

This Christmas Brought To You By Easter **

Every year we talk about the awesomeness that is the substance of God packed in a teeny-tiny body—and indeed, we should.*** It is a thought to wonder at for eternity to come. But the Gospel—that same baby Jesus grew up to live a sinless life; to be God who walked among humans; to be killed on a cross and take the gruesome and terror-filled punishment for the sins of many; and to come back to lifeconquering death once and for all—the Gospel is why we celebrate Christmas.  Because of His sacrifice, you and I can spend the rest of forever in Heaven with Him. Seems like a pretty good reason to celebrate someone’s birthday.

That, my friends, is the good news of Christmas—the Gospel.

So yes, I’m still thinking about Christmas, because I’m still thinking about the Gospel. Because I need the Gospel—I need Jesus—every single hour of every single day of every single year. Not just December 25.

*I don’t understand why a Christmas Eve service wouldn’t include a clear Gospel message. The Good News of Christmas is much more than a sleeping baby, and there are a lot of people that won’t be in those pews for another year. Just a thought. Perhaps a future diatribe.
**I heard a radio DJ say, “I can’t think of another holiday that is more central to the Christian faith than Christmas.” Uhhhh…try again. 
***Yes, we can talk about the significance found in Old Testament Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled with Jesus’ birth. But they were only fulfilled because He was the Messiah—He rescued His people from sin and death.

[Image via Judy Merrill-Smith/flickr]