THE "CONS" OF CHRISTMAS
If you live in a so-called Christian country like New Zealand, you will know about the countdown "lead-up" to Christmas. For weeks we are bombarded by all the clamouring voices beseeching, cajouling and instructing us about what we need to do as the grand finale to another year. They don't mention the fact that over the coming days and even weeks, many people and their families will have to lick their "wounds" with little mollification from the vested-interests and systems that caused them.
The religious significance, or the "reason for the season" is a personal matter and to some extent will determine what we do, but I know that usually some aspects of the Christmas season's "celebrations" will be incorporated into the holiday period. I respect your right to freedom of choice. However, I do question the amount of "freedom" society actualy allows. The pressures to conform can be very difficult to resist. How many choices this Christmas period will be regretted and will have been made against our better judgement?
Many years ago, I wrote the following article. It is as true today, as when I first put pen to paper. I stand by every word of it, and my desire is to help others to escape the cons of Christmas, and all the falsity and "damage" they can do.
If you're happy with things as they are, that's fine, but if you're not, then here is another challenge to test what coming out of the mould is all about.
Shocked silence may follow such a statement. It sounds almost heresy! No, maybe blasphemous would be a better word. After all, a true follower of the Lord Jesus shouldn’t be saying things like that should he?
Well, strange as it may seem, that’s exactly why I’ve said it. “Christmas” as we know it today, is far from Christ-centred and Bible based.
Let me explain.
For many many years – well over forty of them, I have loathed Christmas. It would not be honest if I said otherwise. Yes, I have loathed that time of the year when we are supposed to remember the birth of Jesus; the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The time, when we should be able to follow the example of those shepherds who had sat out there on the hills near Bethlehem listening to the angel heralding the most joyful news ever announced. “And they went even unto Bethlehem to see that thing which had come to pass, which the Lord had made known to them.”
Weeks before Christmas, I would be caught up in the organization of those things that are supposed to make up Christmas.
The end of year functions – school break-up concerts, prize-givings, parties, practices for carol singing, making decorations for rooms and halls and so on.
And as the days went by, the One whose birth had prompted such spontaneous acts of worship, nearly two thousand years ago, was obscured by:
Christmas trees, tinsel and coloured lights;
presents and parents’ “moans and groans:”
Santa Claus and his sack of handouts;
the festive season “parties” and all the variations on that theme;
eating and drinking;
advertising at every turn; parades and the clamour of check outs; Christmas cards;
restless, excited and seemingly never-satisfied children;
tired irritable people’
holiday arrangements to work through;
last minute shopping;
a road toll that brings only sorrow and suffering.
When December 25th came there was nothing to be really excited about.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men” ... had a hollow, almost mocking ring to it.
No matter how hard I tried to erase these extra trappings which now embellish Christmas, they were there to spoil the true meaning of the day. Words spoken by Mary Magdalene thirty three years after Jesus’ Birth seemed so applicable. With one slight change they seemed to express what had happened. “They have taken away the Lord out of the (manger) and we know not where they have laid Him.”
I, too, felt I had been robbed of something Precious.
So, slowly I began to ask questions and to look for answers.
I soon found that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did.
Some folk felt that campaigning to put Christ back into Christmas was the answer. But surely the best this could do was to bolster lip service to the nativity of Christ, but retain the collection of pagan and other so-called “harmless” customs which have grown into the traditions normally accepted as part of the Christmas observance.
God incarnate had to take His place alongside all the rest.
When anyone really starts delving into how we got “Christmas” it’s not long before there will be a few horrifying surprises. If you haven’t discovered this for yourself, it’s worth the effort. Start with the Scriptures which of course tell the true “Christmas” story, and then study all the additions.
After continued frustration over a number of years, two things had become obvious. First “Christmas” and I were never going to be compatible, and second, I had to do something about it rather than just grizzle.
Very profound conclusions weren’t they?!!
I mean, lots of people could have told me that right from the beginning!
But taking this seemingly elementary step is always essential before anything can happen. “Christmas” is a classic example of the conditioning process churning out thousands, possibly millions of people who, once a year, get caught up in the sorts of things that I have described above, and are pressured into conforming in one way or another.
To do anything about it all, means being different. And that is never easy. Just imagine what people will think if you try to change it all!
The solution to my intolerance of Christmas was not to try to change anybody. The secret lay in finding out how I could worship and adore the new born King so that He, and He alone, received all the wonder, love and praise that I longed to give Him each year – to remember that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.
I was not going to do away with an opportunity to remember Jesus’ birth. But after all, 25th December was not his birthday anyway. There was a family to think of too. So now, I must continue the story from a family point-of-view.
As part of the research on “Christmas” we found that we could get a much more likely, and scriptural time of the year for Christ’s birth. We didn’t try to fix the date exactly, but rather, each year we determined the time when we would focus on our “Christmas”.
O.K. So what do we do?
Well, I’m sorry, that’s not for publication!
We are always happy to share the details with folk who are genuinely interested, but to set it out here is just inviting folk to swap one form of conformity for what could easily become another. The whole point of living beyond conformity is to be renewed in our minds, and that means working it out with the Lord. Knowing how to live beyond the “mindset mountains”.
We have sought to find a Christ-centred and Bible-based “Christmas”. If you wish, you can do the same. As you seek, you will find.
At this point, though, we would like to say that we are certainly not the only ones who have been exercised in this matter. (And I might add, you may not be able to stop with Christmas!)
So what about December 25th and all that leads up to it?
For us that’s no problem now.
Before the end of the year comes WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN TO BETHLEHEM, (many times perhaps!) and rejoiced. We have thanked God for sending Jesus. We have remembered his birth.
On the way we do not meet ...
.... Santa Claus and his reindeer.
We do not peer around Christmas trees or push our way through over-crowded shops.
We are not subjected to the huge and subtle pressures of advertising.
None of those sorts of things.
So when the end-of-the-year “Christmas” comes, we view it as the miscellany of dubious traditions and customs that it is. We use it as an opportunity to expose these things from a Christian perspective. We participate in those activities which are acceptable to us. We treat it only as one of this world’s festive seasons. For us, Jesus is Lord, and there is no room for other “gods”. For us, the Babe of Bethlehem is not part of any sentimental pagan clutter, even though His name is associated with it.
But Bethlehem points to Calvary. And if we are to be consistent, we must also take a close look at Easter.
Jesus, the Saviour, came into this world, and though the world was made by Him, the world did not recognise Him (John 1:10). This is still true today.
But read on in John chapter 1. Passed the glorious truths of verses such as 12 and 16 until we come to verse 19:
John saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus’ birth was overshadowed by a cross.
The “Church” has observed Christmas (and Easter) the way it is for hundreds of years. Does it really matter if what is done each year doesn’t quite match up with what we read in the Scriptures?
Well, for me it does!
We have to decide what to do about issues like these and as we’ve been saying, living beyond conformity may require us to make changes so as to be true to the Lord Jesus Christ and His written word.
Yes, I really do loathe the “season” which is the world’s version of Christmas. I feel sick within. It is all so artificial. I cry out daily, “How can they do this to You, Lord?!” And I seem to hear a quiet, loving Voice saying “Follow Me, Learn from Me, and you shall find rest for your soul. I am He which was, and is, and is to come”.