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December Discord

The other day I saw a news column entitled,’Happy Holidays’ is not a threat to Christmas, but angry Christians are”  Sigh… welcome to Christmas season 2014.

Gone are the days of Nativity scenes on the front steps of town hall, or groups of carolers strolling through the neighborhood.  Nowadays, just using the wrong gift wrap at the office party could be deemed a reprehensible offense.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that Christmas has lost much of its traditional meaning in today’s society.  Other American holidays have gone the same way.  Thanksgiving (aka Turkey Day) is defined by football, overindulgence, and the countdown to Black Fr… Thursday.  Fourth of July celebrations focus on backyard BBQs and whoever has the most explosives.

But believers want Christmas to be different, right?  We want it to be observed in a sacred way – a celebration of the birth of the Lord Jesus.  We like the old traditions… the nativity scenes, the carols… and yes, even the name, “Christmas,” has meaning for us.

But hold on.  Let’s take a closer look at the word that’s behind so much December discord.  The term “Christmas” is never actually mentioned in Scripture.  There’s no record of anyone celebrating Christmas in the Bible, and believers today are never commanded to observe the birth of Jesus in any formal way.  In fact, it’s very unlikely Jesus was born anywhere near 12/25/0000.

Truthfully, Christmas in itself is very much a man-made convention rooted in various secular and religious traditions.  Even most Christians adhere to some curious earthly customs at this time of year – ones that have nothing to do with the birth of Christ.  Many of us will spend Christmas morning exchanging gifts around a glitzy tree in our living room… pulling trinkets and candy from oversized socks hanging near the fireplace – gifts purportedly delivered by a stout, bearded fellow on a flying sled.

Adding to the festivities, we now have the latest entry in the arena of political correctness: “Is it OK to say ‘Merry Christmas?’”  Both Christians and non-Christians have jumped on this bandwagon – and, oh what fun it is to ride – a peculiar war-of-words where a cheerful greeting from either side is frowned upon.  It could be the topic of a new reality TV competition: “Season’s Grievings vs. The Grinches who stole Merry Christmas.”

But as significant as this argument may seem to some, there’s really no biblical basis for “Merry Christmas” to trump all other good-hearted seasonal salutations.  In fact, harsh reactions and rash judgments on this topic are surely more out-of-line with biblical principles than one’s choice of holiday expression — and negativity will never lend towards a good testimony.  (Review the headline quoted in the first paragraph!)

Now… we’re probably all thinking at this point: But it’s so frustrating for us as Christians these days.  It seems like all our good and decent traditions are being squelched!  Agreed?  And in that respect, there may be times when some of us are called to take a more rigid stance if the world threatens to shut down the message of Christ.  However, it’s important to maintain our perspective.  The overall thrust of the New Testament is an encouragement for us as believers to live peaceably with our neighbors.

So this Christmas season, let’s be careful not to lose our focus or take up personal agendas over issues that aren’t even found in Scripture.  Rather, let’s show and proclaim the love of Christ that lives inside us.  The truth that our Lord and Savior was born in Bethlehem will always stand.  Sometimes we may need a reminder that Christ is transcendent, not subservient, to our traditions.  It’s impossible to take Christ out of Christmas — no matter what anyone else chooses to call the holiday.  So rejoice, and have a merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11-12: The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

– Ron Reid