For people who follow Jesus, Christmas is a time to celebrate his birth. Yet Christmas is under attack. Some want to turn it into Xmas, others try to band its mention, and others say it doesn’t matter because we’ve already sufficiently removed Jesus from it.
The reaction from Christ-followers is understandable, but the battle is already lost. Consider our Christmas traditions. How many of them connect with biblical Jesus? Not twinkle lights, mistletoe, garland, snowmen, Santa Claus, reindeer, crackling fires, or hot chocolate. Not sending cards, decorating trees, drinking eggnog, lighting candles, ringing bells, eating ham, stuffing stockings, baking cookies, or wrapping presents. Even the date is off base; it’s highly unlikely Jesus was born in the winter, but a time of year when traveling for the census made more sense.
True, some of these traditions do hold meaning, but the sentiment is manmade, not Bible-based. How we celebrate Christmas has little connection with his birth. Here are the only things I could come up with that actually seem to focus on Jesus:
Nativity: A manger scene is a fine reminder to that earlier time and the real reason for the season.
Tree Topper: An angel or star atop the tree reminds us of the angels announcing his arrival and the star the magi saw. But nothing else on the tree, not even the tree itself, connects directly with Jesus.
Carols: Though the list grows smaller each year, some of the Christmas songs we sing actually mention Jesus’ birth.
What about gifts? The magi gave gifts to Jesus, not other people. To follow their example means giving gifts to God, not family and friends. Or what about the “gift” of Jesus? The real gift was not Jesus’ birth but his victory over death. That would be Easter, another holiday we must fight to protect.
Before you call me Scrooge or Grinch, let me assure you, I am not. I love Christmas because I love Jesus. My goal is for us to refocus Christmas on what truly connects with Jesus and make all other things secondary.
Several years ago, my wife began a practice of making a birthday cake for Jesus. We even sing “Happy Birthday”; some years there are candles. This may seem corny, but it does actually force us, if even for a moment, to focus on the birth of Jesus – and that’s the purpose of Christmas.
[This is from the December 2013 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]