The Meaning of Christmas
“For He was made man that we might be made God.”
St. Athanasius Incarnation of the Word §54
Contrary to the cultural holiday called “Christmas,” the Christian Christmas is about the birth of the Son of God. Many Western Christians celebrate Christmas but give little thought to Easter. Hardly any think of salvation as deification, yet deification is an important part of our salvation. The Apostle Peter wrote about how Christians were to escape from the corruption of the world and become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)
Saint Athanasius, one of the great Christian saints and theologians, lived in Egypt in the fourth century. He wrote many books explaining the Christian Faith. Athanasius was keenly aware that Jesus’ birth in the manger would lead to his death on the Cross and to his Resurrection. All this was done for our salvation. Athanasius fought hard against the Arian heresy which denied Jesus’ divinity. This false teaching was dangerous because it undermined our salvation in Christ. If Christ was not fully divine, then we could not be saved from sin. Furthermore, if Christ was not fully divine, then we could not undergo deification. He wrote:
For therefore did He assume the body originate and human, that having renewed it as its Famer, he might deify it in Himself, and thus might introduce us all into the kingdom of heaven after His likeness. For man had not been deified if joined to a creature, or unless the Son were very God . . . .
For therefore the union was of this kind, that He might unite what is man by nature to Him who is in the nature of the Godhead, and his salvation and deification might be sure. (Discourse II §70; NPNF Vol. 4 p. 386)
After we have opened up our Christmas gifts and put away our Christmas decorations, let us contemplate the coming of Easter. Christmas after all is about the gift of new life in Christ. Let us, like the Wise Men, seek after the Christ Child and worship him (Matthew 2:9-11). And let us like the Virgin Mary reflect on what Christ has done for us and treasure them in our hearts (Luke 2:51). Let us reflect on the radical implications of the Incarnation for the Christmas story.