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November 29, 2015

Rethinking Christmas (Part 1)

Dr. John Neufeld

I have a memory that takes me back a couple of years. I was putting Christmas lights onto our house, and my next-door neighbor had just gotten out of her car, having parked in her driveway. We chatted just a little, and to my surprise, I heard myself remarking I just didn’t like Christmas that much. She was surprised, and said that was an odd attitude for a Christian pastor. I sheepishly agreed and then said something like the following: “Actually, I love the story of the birth of Christ. I just don’t like the commercialism.” She responded by saying something like, “Well, nobody really does.”

That has got me thinking.

How should Christians deal with Christmas? We all agree that the commercialism has gotten out of hand. Those of us, who are given to even the slightest bit of reflection, have noticed that Christmas is a far more significant celebration than Easter.

Some time ago, at Easter, I noticed how many churches did not have a Good Friday service. Easter, which is the centrepiece of our faith, has been relegated to a minor status, while Christmas consumes our energy. And yet, while we celebrate pageants, decorate endlessly and join the buying spree, I have also noticed that many churches have cancelled a Christmas Day service. We spend over a month telling each other that Christmas is coming, and when it arrives, it is a non-event.

What is left of Christmas day itself is the day when families gather, eat together and open the presents they have bought. But worship and adoration of the God who came into the world as man is forgotten, for our churches have taken the day off with everyone else.

I think it is time for serious Christians to rethink Christmas!

Recently I discovered a website called “adventconspiracy.org”. The website begins by making an interesting statement. In 2006, five pastors imagined a better Christmas practice for their own communities. Today, Advent Conspiracy is a global movement of people and churches resisting the cultural Christmas narrative of consumption by choosing a revolutionary Christmas through “Worshipping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All.” I’m intrigued by this.

So, let me suggest a few of my own ways to make Christmas a richer, and deeply Christ-filled experience.

First, in relation to gifts. I think we should make our gifts an expression of ourselves.
Because I like to read, I think I will give powerful Christian books. For years now, I have been advocating that Christian women who read Christian romance novels should stop doing so, and trade them in for biographies. The powerful thing about Christian biographies is that they appeal to both men and women. If you are not sure where to start, might I suggest “goodreads.com” as an excellent introduction to Christian biographies. The lives of faithful believers who form a great cloud of witnesses around us can inspire our own faithfulness.

Second, I think we can give gifts to the poor and needy on behalf of our loved ones. For example, on Compassion Canada’s website, one can make gifts on behalf of someone else that involve helping an individual in a needy part of the world to attend a Christian conference, receive much needed medical care, enroll in a literacy course and so forth. There are also various Christian agencies out there that promote sponsorship of children around the world.

Finally, might I also suggest, that when it comes to giving, all of us revisit where we volunteer and give our time.

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