No matter what the alarmists and conspiracy theorists would like us to believe, we can celebrate Christmas pretty much however we want. If we want a good old fashioned Christmas, we can have it, always allowing for the fact that there probably never was a Christmas exactly like the one that exists in our minds. We can wish people “Merry Christmas”, even if they return the greeting with “Happy Holidays”. We can have a Christmas concert at our church, even if the school our kids go to has a “Winter concert”. We can schedule and attend Advent services and Christmas Eve services, even if people we know are more into celebrating the cultural holiday.
But as we celebrate, we need to carefully think about the message we are giving to the non-believing world that we live in. Unfortunately, it seems that the message we have been giving the world in the last few years is probably not the clearest expression of our Christian faith. When we engage in the battle over Christmas, we are giving the message that we have a very weak God who requires his people to be loud, obnoxious and forceful in demanding rights and perks that no one else enjoys. We are saying that unless we are allowed to follow our faith with all the “traditional” trappings, our faith is weakened and our God is threatened.
The message we need to be giving is far different. Consider the message of the angels found in Luke 2.10-11, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (NIV). This is a powerful message, touching on themes that go deep into the human situation and human heart.
It deals with removing fears, providing good news, offering salvation, giving joy–themes that resonate in the hearts and lives the majority of the world’s peoples. These themes focus on what is wrong in the world as a whole and individual lives in specific. The angels are providing a clear and powerful message–God has done something amazing and unprecedented–he has challenged all that is wrong in the world and provided a way for all to find joy and peace and comfort and salvation.
Now, compare that for a moment to some of the messages that the church or parts of the church are giving today.
• The disposable coffee cup I mentioned in an earlier post is removing Christ from Christmas
• We are being persecuted because culture is saying “Season’s Greetings”
• Having a school “Winter Concert” instead of a “Christmas concert” is anti-Christian
• We must take back Christmas from our culture
What message does that give? Well, I don’t see much joy; I don’t hear anything to lessen fears; I don’t pick up any hints of good news; I don’t perceive any sign of the wonderful working of God in history–I just see the whining of unhappy, miserable people whose faith really doesn’t tempt me to give up what I have for what they have.
Christians were never called to defend Christmas–remember, we actually stole the holiday in the first place. We are called to proclaim the good news of God’s activity in Jesus Christ. We are called to help those who don’t yet follow Christ discover what he can and will do in their lives. We are called to help people see the joy that has become possible because of Christ’s coming. We are called to help people who seek God see the real presence of God in Jesus Christ. Whenever we get sidetracked from the proclamation of these messages, we have missed the point of God’s intervention in history–but even more seriously, we have made it more difficult for people to hear and respond to what God has done in Jesus Christ.
So, a review is in order. While it would be wise to review all that we do as believers, since this is Christmas, we can begin there. We need to look at our Christmas and look for the things that show the true themes of Christmas, the activities that point to the joy that came into the world. We seek to build those and develop those both for ourselves and for the world so that we proclaim the real wonder of what God has done.
That will mean we might change some things; we might do some new things and we might stop so things. Tomorrow, we will focus on some of those positive ways to proclaim joy to the world.
May the peace of God be with you.