Half a century ago, the great British scholar, C.S. Lewis, wrote about the miracle we really celebrate every December. He said the following:
"Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoiled. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.
"What you would have done about that tin soldier, I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man — a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language, weighing so many [pounds]. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but, before that, a baby, and before that, a fetus inside a woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
"The result of this is that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom created life, derived from his mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into [God's] begotten life. Thus, in one instance, humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ.
"And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, killed, He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn — poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed — killed every day in a sense — the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point. For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier — real tin, just like the rest — had come fully and splendidly alive."
This is why we celebrate Christmas. It begins our redemption. The Child conceived in Mary and born in Bethlehem grows up, preaches God's kingdom, is murdered on a cross and rises from the dead — and all of us with Him. The manger and the empty tomb are bookends to the Christian story. They're doorways to new life. Christian joy every December has nothing to do with a bleached and generic "holiday spirit." It's much richer than that, just as flesh and blood is profoundly different from tin.
Of course, we have a choice. We can settle for less. We can remain tin. Even worse, we can begin to be genuinely human and turn back to being tin. The London Daily Mail reported this year that only one in 100 "Christmas" cards now sold in Britain — the land of Lewis, Tolkien and dozens of great Christian saints like Thomas More, John Fisher and Augustine of Canterbury — has any religious content at all.
These final days of Advent invite us to remember who we really are and what we really believe when we describe ourselves as Christians. Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. Every other motive for holiday good will, no matter how sincere, is a tin imitation of the real thing — the true and lasting joy that begins in the birth of Jesus Christ.
May God grant you, your family and all of us a holy and merry Christmas.