Most folks know, even if peripherally, that Christmas is a time that is somewhat related to the birth of Jesus Christ. Buried underneath all the decorating, food, festivities, gift-giving, and general “feel good”-ness, there is something relating to that Jesus guy born a long time ago.
Most Christians know that December 25th is, most likely, not the date on which Jesus Christ was actually born. (It was probably in the Fall.) Suffice it to say, it can get a little confusing during the Christmas season because of this. For one, it’s easy to lose sight of Christ amidst all the celebrations or get caught up in the commercialism; second, what is the point of trying to “redeem” Christmas when it isn’t even the time Jesus was born?
Personally, I enjoy the Christmas season — and, if I’m honest, it’s not even mostly because of Jesus’ birth. I don’t like the cold weather or the mall, of course, but I enjoy the warm fires, the red and green decor, the Christmas tree and wreaths, spotting the over-the-top Christmas lights, the family time, egg nog, even the holiday music (in moderation!), etc. These are all things typically associated with Christmas, by the way, and not winter. I like that stuff.
But in the back of my mind, there is that lingering thought, Remember Jesus in the middle of all this. I want to enjoy the festivities, but I don’t want to neglect Jesus.
In reality, there is this balance that the Christian must strike in “celebrating Christmas” and “celebrating Christ.” By themselves, each one is fine. There is nothing wrong with decorating your tree or giving gifts, and there is nothing wrong with picking a day to reflect on the birth of our Savior (even if it’s the wrong day). Anyone who says that either of these things are wrong in and of themselves isn’t going to be able to find a lick of Scripture saying so. It’s legalism, period.
The problem comes when you’re trying to do both, when the two ideas get conflated. Celebrating the birth of Christ (or anything Christ has done) should not be accompanied with gaudiness, commercialism, materialism, etc., which are all moral issues. Jesus was born in a manger — a feeding trough — among animals and shepherds. It was a humble birth. (Read Luke 2!) Thus, a couple reminders this Christmas season:
1. Check your heart. Is Christmas an excuse to express your sin of materialism? Have you been looking forward to Christmas so you can finally “get” what you’ve wanted? You don’t need to buy your spouse (or yourself!) a $1000 (or $100) television to show how much you appreciate the birth of Christ. If you aren’t truly celebrating the birth of Christ with all your decorations and gift-giving, then don’t pretend you are. Call it what it is: entertainment (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
2. Keep the Christmas HOLIday light and fun. Enjoy the decor and food and gifts in moderation. Thank God for the opportunity. But don’t bankrupt yourself. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy over parties and what family to spend the holidays with. If you can’t enjoy it, then you shouldn’t be “celebrating” it.
3. Keep the Christmas HOLYday sober and worshipful. For me, just the word Christmas is a reminder of Christ (unlike Easter, which makes me think of rabbits). Use the time to reflect of what it means for the God of the universe to condescend himself, to become a man — even being conceived and born — and to sympathize with us. Tell others about Jesus.
Just some tidbits that help me through the challenges of the Christmas season. Hope they help you!
PS A good read.