What Exactly Is Christmas?

What is Christmas? At one time in our culture the answer was pretty well understood. In those days even individuals who were focused more on Santa, gifts, and parties still possessed a basic knowledge as to the underlying true meaning of Christmas. But now, not so much. No longer is it a given that someone knows the true story behind the annual December madness in which our culture voluntarily participates.

What exactly then is Christmas?

It was Christmas Eve 1951. But there was little peace on earth because of the Korean War. The setting was a small village in North Korea, where about 150 U.S. soldiers and their North Korean captors had stopped while on a journey to a POW camp. American soldier Thomas Connelly tells how they arrived in the village late at night and were forced to kneel in the snow in the middle of the road.

While their guards searched the village for food, villagers began to emerge from their houses to look at the prisoners. They neither smiled nor spoke to the Americans. Finally a little girl about 7-8 years old approached a young Marine who was kneeling in front of Connelly. She smiled at him and offered him a small handful of rice. Then in broken English she said, “Christian.” The Marine smiled at her and said, “Merry Christmas.” Puzzled at first by his words, then her eyes lit up and she said, “Christmas is Jesus.” Apparently Western missionaries had taught her.

One of the guards, seeing that she had given the American something, screamed at her. She showed him the rice in her hand. Coldly, the Korean soldier raised his gun and shot her. Quickly the Americans were forced to their feet and then forced to march out of the village by her tiny, bleeding body.

Connelly said of that experience, “I believe it was one of the greatest gifts ever given on Christmas. Of all the prayers and carols that will be sung this Christmas, none will say, ‘Christmas’, as much as that little girl. She gave a small gift of love and simply said, “Christmas is Jesus.”

What exactly is Christmas?

No one can improve on the words of the little North Korean girl. “Christmas is Jesus”—with all the truth those three simple words embody. Christmas is God come in the flesh. Christmas is God choosing to dwell on earth so men and women, boys and girls can know what God is like up close and personal. Christmas is God setting the stage for the most significant event in the history of mankind that would come roughly thirty three years later: the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of that same Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of all who would one day choose to believe in Him. Christmas is God’s way of clarifying once and for all who is the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life (and thus the only way to heaven): that same Jesus. Christmas is God’s down payment on that day in the future when Jesus will come again as Lord and King.

This Christmas, as we give our gifts, as we extend our Christmas greetings, let’s do so knowing and believing that “Christmas is Jesus.”

Merry Christmas!


About the Author

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC.  He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren.  He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jerry Long

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be reached at gotigers73@att.net.