For most of us, Christmas is an occasion for families to come together and exchange gifts, a time of 'peace on earth and goodwill to all men.' It is a reflection of the influence of Christianity that these worthy sentiments have penetrated deeply into our secular and transient culture.
But for Christians, the feast day which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ is the literal fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel' - a name that means 'God is with us'.
In Jesus Christ, God literally came down to live among us, fully man and, at the same time, fully God, a mystery which even the greatest of minds can contemplate without fully understanding.
As the Apostle Paul commented, through this action alone, God humbled himself to become like us in every way but sin, and finally, to die for us so that we might inherit eternal life. Through his example, he proved that 'God is love', to use the title of Pope Benedict's first Encyclical.
As the English poet laureate John Betjeman wrote:
'And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?'
For if it is, he says,
'No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.'
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.