For centuries, December 25 has been the chosen day to commemorate the birth of Christ. I say the “chosen day” because there really is no absolute record of when, exactly, Jesus was born. After all, Bethlehem didn’t exactly dole out birth certificates two millennia ago; even if it did, those ancient texts probably would no longer exist after all the turmoil the Holy Land has witnessed in the centuries hence. So for reasons that are irrelevant to this discussion, the early Catholic church picked today to be the anniversary of Jesus’ birth. As such, today marks the most auspicious time of the year to discuss the advent of Christ.
Matthew chapter 1, verses 20-21, describe how Joseph, the soon-to-be-husband of Mary, learned the reason for her unplanned pregnancy. In a dream, an angel told him of God’s plan for this Child:
Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
In verses 22-23, Matthew explains a bit more, by citing to the prophet Isaiah:
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Notice that in this one passage Matthew identifies two names for Christ, viz.: Jesus and Emmanuel. This is peculiar to say the least. Although the Child is named Jesus, Matthew quotes the passage from the Book of Isaiah where the Child is named Emmanuel.
At first glance this would appear to be a big non sequitur–almost as if one were to say, “Because he should be named Tom, let’s name the child Steve.” The only way this passage makes sense is if we somehow equate the name Jesus with the name Emmanuel.
When we compare the meanings of the two names, while adopting the implied premise that both names are interchangeable (not unlike James is with Jim, or Robert is with Bob), we can ascertain the true meaning of Christmas, or more precisely, the birth of Christ (whenever it was).
In the Greek, Jesus (Iēsous) means “Jehovah is salvation.” Likewise, the Greek word for Emmanuel (Emmanouēl) means “God with us.” By equating the two definitions, we find that the salvation of Jehovah (which is one of many Biblical names for God) equates to the very presence of God.
In other words, if God is with us, then God will save us.
Or put another way, if God saves us, then God is with us.
This implies that whenever God saves someone — be it from sin, or hell, or death, or an unhealthy relationship, or pending bankruptcy, or a strange illness — it is always done personally.
In other words, your salvation is something that God simply will not delegate to someone else. He will not pass the buck to one of His angels. He will not ask someone to do Him a solid and bail out his BFF (i.e., you). No, when He saves you, He does it Himself. Thus, when it comes to your salvation, He will do it personally, for you.
That is the true meaning of Christmas. Not the gifts, or the visits with family, or the days off from work. The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you so much that He personally wants to solve your problems. Therefore, if you will allow Him into your life, if you will seek His Presence, you will find the salvation that you need for the problems that you face. Because no problem can survive the manifest Presence of God.