Years ago I was watching television while wrapping Christmas gifts. There was a television show about the ‘true meaning of Christmas.’ They promoted the popular idea of giving gifts because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. I knew they were wrong, but truthfully, I did not know the true meaning of Christmas.
It would be many years before I learned the true meaning of Christmas, and it would happen at the last place you would expect to learn about Christ. I learned the true meaning of Christmas after visiting a mosque.
The Missions Division of the Baptist General Convention of Texas took us on a trip to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. The imam met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and then he showed us where to put them. Next he showed us the wash room where Muslim men wash their hands, elbows, feet, face and nostrils before going into the main worship room.
We women had the option of wearing a headscarf and I did like the rest. We sat on the floor while the imam told us about their worship. He pointed to the upper room where he said the women chose to worship. He said they could worship with the men, but they chose to climb the stairs and privately worship there. The women also had to perform ritual washing of their body parts, separately from the men, of course.
The main worship area was a long rectangular room. The front row was what we would normally consider to be a side. The imam pointed out that the room was long so that it made the front row longer and, therefore, more men could be on the front row. He said they all wanted to be on the front row because it showed their devotion to Allah. He made his arms into wings, and he showed us how they would nudge the other men out of the way with their elbow, and make their way to the front.
On the wall was the 99 attributes of Allah. My supervisor, who was a Christian Arab, said that none of the attributes said that Allah is love.
After it was over, we thanked the imam and put our shoes back on, we women took off our scarves, and we all climbed onto the bus to go back to our offices. One supervisor who was also a preacher (as they all were) threw his hand up high in the air and said:
“Thank God for Jesus!”
That is when I learned the true meaning of Christmas.
The Jewish people looked for a Messiah like King David. A powerful leader who would take down their enemies, make Jerusalem Jewish again, and who would die a mortal death, as all humans do. The scriptures promised them a savior and they anticipated his arrival.
What they got was not what they expected. Instead of a physical warrior who would defeat the Romans, they got a spiritual warrior who, instead of turning his eyes upon their enemies, turned his eyes upon their relationship to God. In particular, the laws they had expanded to make life miserable, and then the artful and deceitful ways they had of getting around those laws. Read Matthew 23 to see what Jesus had to say about their spiritual condition.
Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. All those laws didn’t mean anything (Matthew 24, Amos 5:21-24) because men had found ways to get around them. Jesus told them to love God with all their heart, and to love their fellow-man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellow-man, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.
Instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to make laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.
The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. No more rigmarole such as the way to wash your hands before eating, and not working on the Sabbath – things that had absolutely no spiritual significance in them. In doing away with these things, Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my load is light.” Matthew 11:30.
Thank God for Jesus!