Tag Archives: Christmas

I am Glad That People Love Christmas

It isn’t uncommon to hear Christians deplore the fact that so many people who clearly have no idea what Christmas is about busily decorate with Christmas ornaments and buy Christmas gifts and dine at Christmas parties and feasts all through the month of December. “They don’t have a clue what Christmas is about,” Christians wail, wringing their hands.

I am starting to ask, “Why don’t they have a clue what Christmas is about?” We decorate and buy gifts and feast, too. With all these Christians celebrating all over the place, why don’t people in general know what Christmas is about? Is their ignorance the real problem, or is it something else?

I believe it is something else.

I believe that Christians are too focused on the way nonbelievers get Christmas wrong. Christians deplore the commercialism that starts advertising Christmas gifts by the first of October. Christians despair of the frenzy of parties and choirs and plays and charity events during a season of prayerful waiting in the church calendar. Some Christians are upset because cashiers won’t say “Merry Christmas, while others are upset that the retail window displays blend Santa Claus and the baby Jesus.

There is another way to look at this situation.

Think about the culture into which Jesus was born. In that culture there were people faithfully waiting for Messiah, there were people who suffered in hopeless despair that Messiah would ever come, and there were people who scorned the whole idea of a Messiah. There were people who had unflappable faith that God always keeps his promises, and there were people who thought that believing in God was the attitude of a simpleton.

The time and place where Christ was born was just like the times and places in which we all live. With that in mind, I am glad that every December, America lights up like a Christmas tree. I’m glad that the phrase Christmas tree has found its way into the language in standalone usage. I’m glad that in the classic secular poem of the holiday season, Santa Claus says, “Merry Christmas to all!” I’m glad, because even though the language and culture pervert the Christmas story, the fact that Christians set up nativity scenes and sing “Silent Night” during this season keeps pointing to the Christmas story, the real story of Christmas. The cultural folderol does not crush the truth that Christ was born to bring God’s salvation and grace to every person on earth.

I have been known to rant a bit about the silliness of some of the “holiday” customs. I rant about silliness wherever I see it. I enjoy poking fun at all sorts of nonsensical excuses for meaningless festivity. However, I don’t think that the abuse of the opportunity for celebration at Christmas is necessarily a bad thing.

Jesus addressed the issue of misuse of blessings when he said, “[God] makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” God does not prevent evil people from receiving the blessing of rain. He lets them enjoy rain and grow crops watered by rain the same way he blesses his faithful children. Likewise, at Christmas, even in the midst of tinsel and baubles, you will also see the star over Bethlehem and the manger with the baby Jesus. Because the images of the birth of Jesus are so widespread at this time of year, we who love the Lord have many, many opportunities to tell people about him. We even get to talk about Jesus when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sues yet another municipality or homeowners association for allowing a public display of a nativity scene. We don’t have all those opportunities every day.

We should thank God for every instance of Christ’s name or his story in public life. If the people talking about it, we should thank God for the opportunity to discuss the story with them, and tell the story correctly. If people are confused, it gives us a chance to speak the truth.

I am very glad that Christmas is a very big deal in the USA in December. I am quite sure that Christians in Kazakhstan, where people can be arrested for carrying a Bible in a shopping bag on a public bus, would love to have the problem of too much glitz about Christmas in Kazakhstan. I can well imagine that Christians in Pakistan, who must be extremely cautious about their behavior during Ramadan, would love to need to explain to fellow Pakistanis which elements in a storefront Christmas display were Christian and which were secular. These Christians know what it is to be silenced by laws and regulations that are prohibited in the USA by our First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Let us give thanks for free speech, even when the speech we hear is repulsive, because free speech is our guarantee that we can say “Jesus is Lord!” fearlessly on any occasion when we feel led by the Spirit to speak out. Let us give thanks even for confused and error-filled Christmas displays that allow us as Christians many opportunities to talk about the real story of Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 ESV). At Christmas, in the midst of the frenzy, when you feel frustrated that people just do not understand what Christmas is all about, be glad. Let the Holy Spirit give you the words to share Jesus with everyone, because it is his season and his time. It is our open door to testify to Christ. We will not likely see the immediate response we hope for in those who hear us speak, but that is not our business. Our business is to share Jesus fearlessly and consistently. I am thankful that, because people love Christmas, I have a chance to introduce them to the love of Christ.

 

Advertisements

Is It Christ-like to Boycott Businesses for Their Politics?

I love Christmas, and I once boycotted my employer’s “Holiday” sweatshirts, because the company refused to provide any that said “Merry Christmas.” I like to wear a button that says, “Please wish me Merry Christmas.” I make a point of saying “Merry Christmas” to servers and cashiers who have obviously been instructed not to mention Christmas. I have my own agenda at Christmas, but I would never boycott a store or mall that refused to acknowledge Christmas.

Jesus is not about commerce, even though he expects that Christians will engage in it right along with everyone else. Actually, Jesus often spoke of various aspects of the business world, but always in the context of ethical practices and moral values. He never told his followers to refuse to do business with anyone who challenged his teachings. In fact, the content of the New Testament suggests to me that we do business with everyone in order that our Christian testimony may be manifest in our dealings for Christ’s glory, not for our own political agenda. Hence, I do not confuse commercial choices with worship options at church.

In fact, when I encounter a business that acts as if there were no such thing as Christmas, I want to go inside and brighten things up a bit. I like to tell clerks that I am shopping for Christmas gifts, because I teach my children about the gifts the wise men brought. Even if the clerks giggle, or if they frown, or if they look quizzical as if they do not know what I mean, I still like to make it clear that the birth of Jesus is the reason I celebrate at this time of year. I very well know that people of other religions and of no religion at all have their reasons for celebrating or for being a Grinch. Still, in this instance, I believe that I have just as much right to say, “I’m looking for the perfect sweater for my teen daughter for Christmas morning,” as I have to say, “I hope I can find the right scarf to accessorize my mother-in-law’s favorite dress for her birthday.” Nobody really cares about my mother-in-law’s birthday except our family, and some people would say that nobody cares about Jesus except Christians. Well, in a store that sells items that might be gifts, I think that I can mention Christmas and my reasons for celebrating it.

I do not think Jesus wants us to be annoying about his birthday. I do think Jesus wants everyone to know about him. There are all sorts of ways to say just about anything. I try to be creative and genuine in whatever I say. I do not plan all the words ahead of time, although I do think about them. I rely on Jesus’s promise to the disciples that whenever they were on trial for their faith, the Holy Spirit would give them the words. I rely on that promise during the Christmas season and during the rest of the year as well. The promise is for all times.

Therefore, the question is whether to boycott Starbucks for promoting homosexual behavior, or whether to boycott Target for refusing to specify gender in children’s clothing, or whether to boycott the anchor store at my local mall for refusing to use the word Christmas anywhere on its premises. Is a boycott the best way to let people know how you feel? What does your boycott say to these businesses?

My response to this sort of behavior by businesses is to say that the dark places of the world are the places where Christ’s light needs to shine. Take the name of Jesus into the dark corners of businesses everywhere. Take his love. Take his grace and forgiveness. Speak the name of Jesus in the midst of Satan’s strongholds and watch the fire spread.

Do not let Satan take control inside the businesses of the world and claim them as bombproof bunkers where God cannot penetrate. Open the doors and bring in the light. Be a flaming tongue and pierce the gates of hell or the doorways of business operations where Christ has been ejected. At the very least, wish everyone “Merry Christmas.” Who knows what else you may have the opportunity to say?

 

A Verse for Our Enjoyment After Christmas

NativityDo not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.  Exodus 14:13

These are the words of Moses to the Israelites when they saw the Egyptian army pursuing them. How are these words relevant as we contemplate what it means that Christ is born?