The Christmas season is upon us again, and I have a confession. I have a definite love-hate relationship with Christmas. I know, I know, it is a terrible thing for a Christian to admit. And yet, truth be told, I do. I both love it and hate it at the same time.
Let me get the hate part out of the way first. I wish to list 4 things I absolutely hate about Christmas.
1) I hate that in most Canadian Churches, the celebration of Christmas is longer and greater than any celebration either at Easter (which is diminished) or Pentecost (which has become non-existent). When did we ever think that Christmas was the highlight of our year? Have we read the Bible on this matter? Have we understood the gospel?
2) I hate that Christmas has become a time of unbridled materialism. I was recently talking with a group of people who reminded me of the overspending that happens among people, many of whom are Christians. Why would Christmas mean we max out a credit card, or that we take a bank loan? What, within the story of Christ’s birth, would give us that idea?
3) I hate that many Canadian Churches, in spite of all the Christmas celebrations, have cancelled Christmas day services. It seems to me, this practice is like getting ready for someone’s birthday, but when the day actually arrives, nothing happens. Indeed, this lack of Christmas Day celebrations might well be a fitting symbol of what has occurred to the Day. Christmas, has become about so many things, but worship of the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh, has faded into the background.
4) I hate that Christmas has been taken over by the secular culture and made it a universal celebration rather than a celebration of Christ. But I know I can’t do very much about that.
But there are 4 things I genuinely still love about Christmas.
1) I love that within the church, we have maintained a hymnody, that is still rich in theological truth. Examine such hymns as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” or “O Holy Night”, and you will see what I mean. The contemporary church is in danger of forgetting some of our richest theological songs, and yet, at Christmas, we seem to rediscover a portion of our inheritance. For this, I am truly grateful.
2) I love that Christmas is still the time when a great many non-Christians are receptive to an invitation to go to church. For those Christians who see this celebration as an opportunity to reach out to the lost, this effort is often rewarded.
3) I love outdoor displays of the Christmas scene – replete with Mary, Joseph, the child in the manger, as well as shepherds and magi. I know there will be those who argue that placing the shepherds and the magi in the same scene is not accurate. But, placing them all together is a depiction of the ones who came to worship the King.
4) I love it when Christians use this time of the year to remember the poor and the needy. Whether it is volunteering at a food bank, or delivering gifts to the home of the needy, this time of the year is an excellent time of the year to demonstrate God’s love for a needy world.
So, given my loves and hates, do I want to keep Christmas? Yes, I do! But I also want us, as Christians, to recapture Easter, and make it bigger than Christmas. At any rate, have a Christ-honouring and holy Christmas season!