As a final post for 2012 here is something about Christmas that I wrote 7 years ago:
A WORD FOR CHRISTMAS AND BEYOND
It’s getting very close to Christmas.
Should we be celebrating even though we know there is no real connection with the 25th December and the birth of our Lord? Should we shun the celebration because the REAL source of the holiday is a pagan celebration?
Some Christians proclaim we should “Put the Christ back into Christmas”. I’ve heard others saying we should take the Christ out of Christmas because the event was never really about Him anyway – pointing to all of the closely held traditions that originate in pagan practices.
But please let me make this point. At what other time of the year are unbelievers willingly confronted with hymns praising our Lord – even singing along?
Despite attempts to replace the “religious” carols with American songs about Jingling Bells, snow men, and reindeer with unusual facial colouring, the Christ praising songs still hang in there among the favourites. At this time of the year, despite attempts to secularise Christmas, in our western tradition, it has remained acceptable, (even among unbelievers) to remember that our Lord was born into this world as a human baby.
Surely, while this acceptability remains we should make the most of it. There is a starting point for the preaching of the gospel while people have this seasonal awareness of the beginnings of Jesus human life.
How can we “exploit” this situation? By belittling the occasion because the date has no historical fact? By shunning celebration because of its pagan roots? Or by recognising an opportunity to make people aware of Jesus BEYOND the manger?
I recall several years ago one radical group of Christians in my home town joined a Christmas parade. Their contribution was a man dressed as Jesus carrying the cross being whipped as he walked along. The person with the whip was dressed as Santa Claus. Now did THAT cause an uproar in the local press!
Now this brings me to another point I’d like to make – the difference between Christmas and Easter (yet another pagan celebration appropriated by the church). Around the time of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” I was astonished at the reaction of the major movie reviewers. These people who can eagerly type their praises of intensely violent and ugly films like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and others – somehow found the brutality of Jesus being scourged and crucified as intensely offensive.
I realised then how acceptable Jesus can be when He’s no more than a baby in a manger. But Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, the brutality of the crucifixion, the sheer ugliness of torn flesh and shed blood – well it’s just not acceptable is it? At least not in the world’s eyes – it’s too confronting. A baby receiving birthday presents and visits from angels and shepherds, all of the peace and goodwill messages, THAT is what they can accept. But move that baby on to adulthood and look at the end purpose of His life and the world doesn’t want to know. They’ll celebrate His birth with songs of paraise – but His death?
Just pass them more chocolate eggs.