Only four more shopping-days left! I know that I skipped next Lord’s Day because Christians really shouldn’t be Christmas shopping on the Sabbath (Neh 13:15-16; Amos 8:5-6). But since you brought it up, what else should you avoid this Christmas? Here’s 3 C’s to skip this year:
1. Calling Jesus’ birth “Christmas.” By all means Go,Tell It On the Mountain, but Jesus’ birth was not “that blessed Christmas morn.” Nor is Luke 2:1-21 a narrative of the “first Christmas.” And it’s not the “Christmas Story” – that’s a movie about Ralphie and a B.B. gun. I ranted about this last year (see A Brief Rant on ‘The First Christmas’) and I’m sticking to my B.B. gun… Jesus was not born on Christmas Day.
Growing up, the few times we went to church was Christmas Eve. So I’ve collected quite a few explanations of how the cultural elements of Christmas are supposed to be about Jesus. You know, deep Gospel truths like ornaments on a tree, which was exceptionally boring (though near the end of that service, my younger brother dumped all the hot wax from his Silent Night candle on my dad’s lap, which admittedly picked things up a bit). Of course, other services centered on gifts and even one pastor dressed-up as ol’ St. Nick himself – though it was more entertaining than the ornament guy. And even as a kid I remember thinking, “I’m too old for this,” as well as “These guys are reaching.” Because I never returned to the tree, gifts, and Santa statues cluttering our living room and thought, “Oh, now the Gospel makes sense!”
Do not assume that the distinction between cultural Christmas and the advent of Jesus is as clear to the world as it is to you. People really do think that the trees, lights, and trampling one another down for a flat-screen TV has something to do with Jesus. Especially right after we say He was born on “that blessed Christmas morn.” So, let’s just avoid calling it that.
2. Complaining that Christmas is not Christian. Celebrations on December 25th began while the Romans were worshiping the sun on the Feast of Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”)! It’s deeply rooted in the rhythm of ancient agrarian societies and pagan religion. Since December was the major rest period,” it seemed like a good time for a party. Besides with all that freshly fermented beer and slaughtered meat on hand, somebody’s got to eat it. It’s really kind of hard to argue with that logic. But as pagans worship created things, instead of our Creator (Rom 1:18-25), they also hung lights and greenery as prayers for the gods to again lengthen the day and bring crops out of the winters frost.
Historian Stephen Nissenbaum shows how this led to Christmas as we know it:
… when the Church, more than a millennium earlier, had placed Christmas Day in late December, the decision was part of what amounted to a compromise, and a compromise for which the Church paid a high price. Late-December festivities were deeply rooted in popular culture, both in observance of the winter solistice and in celebration of the one brief period leisure and plenty in the agricultural year. In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Saviors birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been…. It may not be going too far to say that Christmas has always been an extremely difficult holiday to Christianize (The Battle for Christmas).
Listen, we stole the world’s party in the first place, so let’s not get too bent out of shape if they want it back.
Besides, our mission as a church is not forcing unbelievers into some ceremonial acknowledgement of Jesus once a year. Hes blasphemed and dishonored 364 days a year, so why are we be shocked when that continues on December 25th? In fact, my hunch is that all the pseudo-Christianity that Americans don this time of year is more dishonoring to our Lord than if they just admitted what was true theyre not actually Christians.
We want people to become Christians, not celebrate Christmas. So the next time you get Happy Holidays,” either respond with “MerrySol Invictus!” or just “You, too.” And then maybe invite them to church – as long as your pastor is not trying on Santa suits.
3. Confusing your children. Mostly, Im thinking about all the traditions around Santa Claus (Clint Archer posted a helpful article last year, Should We Lie to Our Kids about Santa? and Thabiti Anabywile is on the money with Down with Santa Claus!). I know I may be reaching , but I think that generally speaking to lie to your kids is a bad idea.
Jesus birth is full of things that people thought impossible to believe virgin birth, Messiah in a manger so much so that Gabriel had to say, all things are possible with God (Luke 1:37). And we tell our children to believe these impossible things.
So, do you think its wise to then add impossible things – fat man through a chimney, every kid in the world on one night, elves making toys on the North Pole, reindeers with glowing noses that are not true? Archer explains:
I want my children to grow up knowing that their dad never, ever lies to them. About anything. This may lead to some awkward moments in life, like a premature discussion about where babies come from. But surely adding a stork to the catalogue of misinformation cant be a better tactic than opting for truth in every situation.
Agreed. I do not want my children to grow up and decide that since I told them impossible things that are both true and not true, theyll just reject everything they find impossible to believe. (To help your kids not make every other kid in the neighborhood cry, see Anabywile, Thoughts for Parents and Children Who Don’t Do Santa).
See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? I’m not too big a Scrooge. Just don’t call Jesus’ birth Christmas, don’t complain about “Happy Holidays,” and don’t confuse your kids! It’s easy. Enough for the negatives, our next post will be 4 P’s that you should strive to accomplish this Christmas!