Immediately after Thanksgiving, the hustle and bustle start in preparation for Christmas.

Shoppers converge upon malls, order presents online, and purchase gifts cards by the dozens. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mad rush to buy that the real meaning of Christmas is forgotten.

While the holiday draws families and friends together to share meals, memories and tokens of love, Christmas really means a whole lot more, according to Los Angeles-area pastors.

“Christmas means God with us (Emmanuel) and how He identifies with us and offers us a way to have a right relationship with him through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ,” said Pastor Reginald A. Pope of Bethel Baptist Church in South L.A.

“Christmas celebrates the coming into the earth realm the God Man who could identify with man, live as a man, yet without sin, in order to redeem man from the curse of sin. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! The blood still works!”

Offering a similar view, Pastor Xavier L. Thompson of Southern St. Paul Church underscores God’s plan for the salvation of mankind through the birth of Christ. The Bible confirms in Matthew 1:21 that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.”

“The meaning of Christmas is not the tree, lights, and/or gifts we give each other. The true meaning of Christmas is you and I being reminded of God’s plan and purpose for the world which is encapsulated in John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,’” insisted Thompson.

“Christmas is about God. Christmas is about giving. Christmas is about generosity. We give to others because God first gave to us,” he explained.

Sharing yet another perspective of the real meaning of the sacred observance, Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church noted that it contains “personal, political and economic consequences.”Both tradition and the Bible indicate that many people were expecting a worldly, conquering Messiah; however, Christ was born in a lowly animal stable and placed in a manger from which the livestock fed.

“God’s message is clear – no matter who you are, what your station is life might be, hope can overcome hopelessness, love transcends hatred, joy is available and accessible, authentic peace must be waged,” declared Sauls.

“The meaning of Christmas is not an excuse for socio-political hibernation. The meaning of Christmas, as contained in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), is a call for courageous and transformational action to facilitate racial justice, economic equity, gender equality and environmental restoration. Join me in living the message from the manger!”