定義聖誕節的真諦──DETERMINING WHAT CHRISTMAS IS REALLY ALL ABOUT

MONDAY MANNA

幾世紀以來,聖誕節被傳講和描述的文章數不勝數,即使到現在還有評論員在討論「聖誕節真正的含義」。但對相信聖經的人來說,聖誕節只有一個意義:一位名為耶穌的小嬰兒,卑微地出生在一個名為伯利恆的偏僻小鎮中,卻成為世界上最有影響力的人。在世上大多數的地區,日曆上的公元年是根據基督的概估出生時間來訂定:B. C. (Before Chris,意指基督降生前),以及A.D.(Anno Domini,意指我們的主降生那一年之後)。

儘管大家通常在1225日慶祝聖誕節,卻沒人知道嬰孩基督的確切出生日期。不過,我們確實知道祂出生時的一些情境:沒有聖誕樹;聖誕老人不在場;唯一的禮物是黃金、乳香和沒藥。

在今天的商場上,聖誕節是一個很重要的節日,因為在這個時期,零售業的銷量會戲劇化地暴增。對很多實體與新興的網路商而言,節慶日的銷售量往往能決定這一整年是否獲利。這似乎也是零售業的「聖誕季」一年比一年早的原因之一。

在商業和專業領域裡,聖誕節意味著要開始評估過去的一年,並為新年設定新目標。聖誕派對也是一項普遍的傳統,在今年因為新冠病毒和社交距離的限制下,如果有派對,可能也會是與往年不同的形式。

回頭談聖誕節的重要性。聖經裡有清楚的解釋。馬太福音非常簡要地介紹了基督的出生,而路加福音則在第一章和第二章提供了最詳細的資訊。但就解釋耶穌基督的誕生為何如此重要的原因而言,約翰福音提供了最具洞察性的描述。以下是約翰福音當中的一些內容:

是神的話,是神道成肉身。耶穌不僅僅是個好人、一名先知、一位有超凡魅力的宗教領袖而已。聖經告訴我們,祂是參與創造世界過程的神,親自道成肉身。「太初有道,道與 神同在,道就是 神。這道太初與 神同在。萬物是藉著他造的;凡被造的,沒有一樣不是藉著他造的。」(約翰福音1章1-3節)

是黑暗世界的光。我們活在一個似乎越來越黑暗的世界中。耶穌降生,是為了將光帶到黑暗中,並永遠驅除黑暗。「生命在他裏頭,這生命就是人的光。光照在黑暗裏,黑暗卻不接受光。」(約翰福音1章4-5節)

是新生命的源頭。我們當中很多人都知道自己的缺點、弱點、和完全轄制我們的罪,我們總希望能夠全部的改變和消除。透過耶穌基督領受新生命,就可以經驗到這些變化——不是透過自己的努力,而是透過耶穌。「凡接待他的,就是信他名的人,他就賜他們權柄作 神的兒女。這等人不是從血氣生的,不是從情慾生的,也不是從人意生的,乃是從 神生的。」(約翰福音1章12-13節)

是最極致的典範。聖經告訴我們,耶穌基督是上帝派來拯救全人類的救主。我們也讀到耶穌是一位了不起的老師,以及如何生活、如何與他人及上帝互動的完美典範。「道成了肉身,住在我們中間,充充滿滿地有恩典有真理。我們也見過他的榮光,正是父獨生子的榮光。」(約翰福音1章14節)

© 2020. Robert J. Tamasy 是企業巔峰: 給今日職場從箴言而來永恆的智慧 一書的作者。也與導師之的作者David A. Stoddard 合著Tufting Legacies。編輯多本著作包括Mike Landry. Bob的書: 透過苦難成長。Mike Landry. Bob的網站為www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com

反省與問題討論

  1. 如果有人要你定義聖誕節的真諦,你第一時間會想到什麼?
  2. 你認為耶穌基督對我們生活的世界(無論是個人還是社會)的影響是什麼?在你看來,有任何其他人在幾世紀以來(包括21世紀),對人類的生命產生比這還大的影響嗎?請解釋你的答案。
  3. 耶穌對你個人的生命有影響嗎?如果有,請簡短說明。
  4. 本文所提約翰福音第一章對耶穌基督的描述中,哪一點對你來說是最深刻感動的?

備註:如果你手上有聖經,想閱讀更多相關經文,請參考以下內容(因經文篇幅較長,請參閱未列出的經文,馬太福音1:18-25、路加福音1:26-55 )

路加福音2章1-20節
2:1 當那些日子,凱撒奧古斯都有旨意下來,叫天下人民都報名上冊。
2:2 這是居里扭作敘利亞巡撫的時候,頭一次行報名上冊的事。
2:3 眾人各歸各城,報名上冊。
2:4 約瑟也從加利利的拿撒勒城上猶太去,到了大衛的城,名叫伯利恆,因他本是大衛一族一家的人,
2:5 要和他所聘之妻馬利亞一同報名上冊。那時馬利亞的身孕已經重了。
2:6 他們在那裏的時候,馬利亞的產期到了,
2:7 就生了頭胎的兒子,用布包起來,放在馬槽裏,因為客店裏沒有地方。
2:8 在伯利恆之野地裏有牧羊的人,夜間按著更次看守羊群。
2:9 有主的使者站在他們旁邊,主的榮光四面照著他們;牧羊的人就甚懼怕。
2:10 那天使對他們說:「不要懼怕!我報給你們大喜的信息,是關乎萬民的;
2:11 因今天在大衛的城裏,為你們生了救主,就是主基督。
2:12 你們要看見一個嬰孩,包著布,臥在馬槽裏,那就是記號了。」
2:13 忽然,有一大隊天兵同那天使讚美 神說:
2:14 在至高之處榮耀歸與 神!在地上平安歸與他所喜悅的人(有古卷:喜悅歸與人)!
2:15 眾天使離開他們,升天去了。牧羊的人彼此說:「我們往伯利恆去,看看所成的事,就是主所指示我們的。」
2:16 他們急忙去了,就尋見馬利亞和約瑟,又有那嬰孩臥在馬槽裏;
2:17 既然看見,就把天使論這孩子的話傳開了。
2:18 凡聽見的,就詫異牧羊之人對他們所說的話。
2:19 馬利亞卻把這一切的事存在心裏,反覆思想。
2:20 牧羊的人回去了,因所聽見所看見的一切事,正如天使向他們所說的,就歸榮耀與 神,讚美他。
約翰福音10章10節
10:10 盜賊來,無非要偷竊,殺害,毀壞;我來了,是要叫羊(或譯:人)得生命,並且得的更豐盛。
約翰福音14章6-7節
14:6 耶穌說:「我就是道路、真理、生命;若不藉著我,沒有人能到父那裏去。
14:7 你們若認識我,也就認識我的父。從今以後,你們認識他,並且已經看見他。」
哥林多後書5章17節
5:17 若有人在基督裏,他就是新造的人,舊事已過,都變成新的了。


DETERMINING WHAT CHRISTMAS IS REALLY ALL ABOUT

By Robert J. Tamasy

Over the centuries, countless billions of words have been spoken and written about Christmas. Some commentators still engage in discussions about “the true meaning of Christmas.” But for those of us who believe the Bible, there can be only one meaning: A little baby who would be called Jesus was born in an obscure town called Bethlehem in humble circumstances, yet grew to become the single most influential person in the world. In most of the world, the calendar year is based upon the estimated time of Christ’s birth, hence B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini – year of our Lord).

Even though Christmas is typically celebrated on Dec. 25, no one knows the exact date when the Christ Child was born. However, we do know some things about that event: there were no Christmas trees; Santa Claus was not present; and the only gifts were of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In today’s marketplace, Christmas is an important time because retail sales increase dramatically. For many stores – and now, online sites – holiday sales determine whether a year has been profitable. That is one reason the retail “Christmas season” seems to start earlier and earlier each year.

Christmas also signifies a time in the business and professional world to assess the past year and start setting new goals for the new year. Holiday parties also have been a popular tradition, although this year, with coronavirus concerns and social distancing, if there are parties, they will probably look different.

Getting back to the significance of Christmas, we find clear explanations in the Bible. The gospel of Matthew offers a very brief account of Christ’s birth, while the gospel of Luke presents the most detail in portions of chapters 1 and 2. However, in terms of why the birth of Jesus Christ is so important, we find the most penetrating descriptions as the gospel of John opens. Here are some of them:

The Word of God, God incarnate. Jesus was not merely a good man, a prophet, or a charismatic religious leader. The Scriptures tell us He was God incarnate, deity in the flesh, who took part in the creation of the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made ”  (John 1:1-3).

The Light for a dark world. We live in what seems to be an increasingly dark world. Jesus came to bring light to the darkness and to dispel it, ultimately forever. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”  (John 1:4-5).

The Source of new life. Many of us are aware of flaws, weaknesses, even dominating sins in our lives we would like to change or eliminate altogether. By receiving new life through Jesus Christ, we can experience those changes – not through our own effort, but through Him. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”  (John 1:12-13).

The ultimate example. The Bible tells us Jesus Christ is the Savior sent from God for all mankind. We also read He was a great teacher, as well as the consummate model of how we should live and interact with others, including God. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”  (John 1:14).

© 2020. Robert J. Tamasy has written Marketplace Ambassadors: CBMC’s Continuing Legacy of Evangelism and Discipleship; Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; andThe Heart of Mentoring, coauthored with David A. Stoddard. Bob’s biweekly blog is: www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1. If someone were to ask for your definition of “the meaning of Christmas,” what comes to your mind? 
  2. What do you think has been the impact of Jesus Christ on the world in which we live, both in terms of life individually and on society? Is there anyone else, in your opinion, who has had a greater impact on the lives of people through the centuries – including the 21st century? Explain your answer. 
  3. Has Jesus had an impact on your own life? If so, briefly describe what that has meant for you. 
  4. Of the descriptions of Jesus Christ presented in the first chapter of the gospel of John, which is most significant for you – if any?

 NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more, consider the following passages:
Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-55, 2:1-20; John 10:10, 14:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17


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