I recently wrote about the controversy we have at this time of year over saying “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.”
Standing in line to pay for my book at Barnes and Noble today, I heard the customer ahead of me complaining to the clerk because he had wished her “Happy Holidays!” She proceeded to tell him in an irate voice that this was Christmas and he should greet her with “Merry Christmas!”
When he replied not every customer was a Christian and there are several religious holidays in December such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, she became upset and told him “We need to keep Christ in Christmas!”
I wondered as she finally walked away in a very self-righteous mood what would Jesus have done in this circumstance. Her attitude was anything but loving and kind.
So – I began to wonder: Are we as Christians supposed to be keeping Christ in Christmas? Is that what the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is all about? A holiday where we spend so much time, energy and money baking, shopping, going to parties, putting up lights, waiting for Santa Claus to come?
Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting these things are wrong – I miss the days when my children tried their best to go to sleep early so Santa Claus would come. The days when we had a big, beautiful tree full of lights in our living room with presents. Christmas is a fun-filled family time I appreciate. But really?
When we talk about keeping Christ in Christmas – it seems to me we are making Christmas the big deal. Somehow we need to make sure in all our busyness that we add Christ to this day. So – we add a candle-light service to our list of parties, we put out a manger scene along with the other Christmas decorations and we insist everyone say “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays.” Then, we sit back and feel so righteous because we have fitted Christ into our Christmas routines.
The birth of Jesus – and its celebration – is much more than saying “Merry Christmas.” The birth of Jesus shows us God’s love in leaving the glory and splendor of heaven to come to earth as a human. It is a moment to be savored with awe and solemn reflection – not by a hurried “Merry Christmas” as we pass one another in the stores, at church or in our homes. That night so long ago may well have not been a “Silent Night” as we love to think of it. I earlier posted some thoughts on that “Silent Night” image we have of Jesus’ birth. At our church service we recently sang “Away in a Manger.” I was struck again by the words “the cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” Really? He came to earth to be one of us – to experience our pain, our sorrow, our fears, our temptations. So – when he awoke in the middle of the night possibly hungry and cold, He did not cry!
Christmas is only the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ.
- There was his earthly life where I believe he experienced sorrow and pain – and I know at least two times when he cried – at the grave of Lazarus and over Jerusalem just before He went to the cross. Somehow I believe he cried as a baby too.
- There was his time in the garden of Gethsemane when he experienced such agony the Bible tells us he sweated great drops of blood.
- There was the cross where He cried “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
- And, thankfully, there was the resurrection!
So – there is so much more to this story of Jesus Christ than His birth. But unfortunately that seems to be the one we want the world to recognize and acknowledge. We don’t seem to care that the celebration of the resurrection is overshadowed by the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt. As long as the world says “Merry Christmas” and we keep Christ in the holiday, everything is fine.
Well – I think we need to be more concerned that the world knows He not only came as a baby, but He died and rose again. And why?
Because He loves us.
So – we need to begin showing that love to others around us.
Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by the love we showed to others.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples
Christmas should only be a part of our life in Christ. He needs to be recognized and honored by the world all year long. But the only way that will happen is if we stop being so judgmental and self-righteous and began to love people – even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas!”
I propose we don’t worry so much about keeping “Christ in Christmas” but rather make sure that our Christmas is in Christ – because He is so much more than the baby in the manger. Let’s keep “Christmas in Christ” and make Him known to the world by our love for others.