Our most common phrase used to celebrate this time of year is merry Christmas. This is good and right, but like everything else it can be ruined if we try it on autopilot.
This means that we are claiming that the characteristic keynote attitude surrounding this holiday is cheerfulness. And this is done, at least in the northern hemisphere, in the “bleak mid-winter.” So it is not simply a cheerful holiday, full of merry-making, it is such a holiday that is juxtaposed against an incongruent background.
And that juxtaposition is part of the meaning of Christmas. This is a time of celebration, but it is celebration over the birth of a Deliverer, a Messiah, someone who was sent to do something about the surrounding darkness and evil.
Christ was not born at the culmination of God’s deliverance, but rather at the initiation of it. Our salvation had begun in the Old Testament era in the sense that God promised it in multiple places. But it was not until Gabriel spoke the incredible words to Mary that the salvation started to take actual, physical shape. The fact that it was taking shape in the womb of a young woman, selected by divine grace to be the Mother of the serpent slayer, means that God was intent on evoking a deliverance for lost human race from within that lost human race.
Light was born in the darkness. A mass of unrighteousness was huddled on this planet, and out of our midst came a righteous one. How God contrived that is a matter if endless adoration. A Savior was conceived in the midst of the race that required saving. Purity rose up out of corruption, and drew millions of corrupted but now forgiven sinners after Him, including His own dear mother.
God had promised to do this ages before, but in the Incarnation He actively began the process of pulling the universe inside out. And so it is that we are privileged to say merry Christmas.