HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS
As I watch the news regarding “Black Friday”, and see the Christmas displays going up as early as November first, I enter the Christmas Holiday feeling disappointed and let down by it all. I just want to keep it real but it never feels that way. In part it’s because of all the confusion over what it’s really about. As evangelical Christians we are fond of blaming the “pagan”, or “Godless world” for our troubles, but it’s really we who are to blame.
Within my own family we struggle to change lifelong traditions regarding Christmas. One side refuses to open presents on Christmas day, instead moving the “orgy of materialism” to another day. One contingent says we should move the Christmas celebration to January and hold the pagan “orgy of materialism” on the pagan holiday in December. The only thing we seem to agree on is that we are not going to deny our children, or ourselves, the “orgy of materialism”.
That works well for the economy, especially the retail sector for whom “enough” is never really enough. Whatever the day you choose to tear the wrappings from the gifts you’ve bought one another, you leave the real meaning of Christmas in shreds and encourage every kind of abhorrent behavior.
I often hear among evangelicals the complaint that the Pope changed the date of Christmas to coincide with a Roman, pagan holiday. The truth of the matter is that blaming someone else won’t make you blameless in the “orgy of materialism”. I’m open to suggestions about how to put an end to it. In colonial times, the Puritans used the “Pope” excuse in making it illegal to celebrate Christmas at all. You could be tried for heresy and hung if you were caught violating that law. Maybe we should reconsider our condemnation of the Puritans.
The first century apostolic church had no idea when Christ was born and never gave thought to a celebration of his birth. It wasn’t till much later, when the church became absorbed in calendar celebrations that Christmas began to appear among them. The idea was tainted from the start and as it grew in popularity so did the number of tainted ideas about how and when it should be celebrated. Among those early Christians, already divided by hundreds of doctrinal issues, Christmas became just another divisive subject.
In truth, only two things really matter with regard to Christ’s birth. The first is “The Gift of God”; that it represents. That Christ came into the world for one purpose only and that was to die upon a cross, to shed his own blood in my place and yours in order to once and for all satisfy the requirement of the moral law of God. When exactly He was born loses all importance in the face of this truth, and the gift He offers is renewed with each new day.
That he was born is enough. Even the scriptures do not testify to when that was, though they do testify to the gravity of His mission in the events that surrounded His birth. The dark implications found in the strains of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s, “Serjievo Christmas” testify to the seriousness of His mission. Both the music and the events in Serjievo that inspired it speak to the source of all darkness, (Rev. 12:ff), and our need for a savior. We must learn to celebrate Christ, “The Gift of God”, who came into the world for one purpose only.
Second is the “Virgin Birth”. The virgin birth testifies to us that we are not able to save ourselves, but we require a savior to intervene from a power beyond ourselves. Oswald Chambers points out that the virgin birth testifies to the fact that Christ came into the world from outside. He is not of this world, but is God, incarnate, come to live among us, in order to show us the Way, to reveal the Truth, and to become Life for us through the paradox of His own death.
Nothing is changed in this world by the church’s misguided celebration of the birth of Christ. In fact there is no precedent or requirement for such a celebration mentioned anywhere in scripture. Perhaps that’s because most often our Christmas services are a dis-service to Him. Our personal worship is a way of making us feel better about ourselves, in spite of our sin, and our corporate worship is an entertainment that changes nothing in the world or in ourselves.
Christ Jesus came into the world to die in sinless obedience upon a cross, so that God could change man’s instrument of cruel death into a symbol of new life; new life that comes from outside ourselves to change us on the inside, God’s simple, but powerful plan to sow the seeds of His Kingdom on Earth.
So keep it simple from now on. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Celebrate it every day of the year instead of focusing all your attention on one illusive day. And remember, all the blinking lights, decorated trees and mountains of gifts have never produced a single forgiven sin, or new life. Only the gift of Christ can do that.