My Facebook feed is jammed with posts about holiday trees, and memes about “Keeping Christ in Christmas”. Oh, we can get ourselves quite worked up about “those people” who every year, seem to try to take away our Christ and secularize Christmas. We slap on bumper stickers and “like” posts and bemoan yet another town hall who has refused to display a crèche.
But the reality is this – whether a Target employee says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has NOTHING to do with keeping Christ in Christmas. I dare say that we are not so much offended by their slight of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as to their gall at trying to change our tradition.
Let’s face it, folks. We spend hours decorating a tree and our homes, countless more hours shopping. We cannot wait to curl up with our peppermint mocha and Ghiaradelli chocolates in front of a fake fireplace, a glistening, perfect tree, CD playing Christmas classics in the background. If we had to be honest, what percentage of our time and effort every year is Christ- centered? I had a friend suggest 10%, but I suspect its far less.
If I take the total amount of time I spend cooking, baking, travelling, shopping and preparing; then compare it to the number of hours that I consciously thought of the ultimate gift of Jesus, His stepping down from the throne of heaven to redeem a fallen world – how would that compare? How many hours do I spend on worshipping Him, falling on my face before a God who would act in such scandalous love?
Because keeping Christ in Christmas does not mean I put up a nativity scene, go to church, and throw a few extra dollars in the Salvation Army kettle. It means that He is the focus, and His heart’s cry, His mission, is to be honored.
If we Christians truly want to keep Christ in Christmas, we need to be Christ to this world. If we will not do it, why do we expect a secular and lost world to do it?
We search for weeks for the “perfect gift” – you know why? Because we are so laden down with so much more than we need that it takes massive creativity to come up with something that might be unique or useful. You know why it’s so easy to buy for the less fortunate? Because their perfect gift is food, or a warm coat or a place to sleep.
If Jesus were in America today, He would not be worried about which stores call their sales “Holiday Sales” or even if Anytown, USA has decided against a scene depicting His birth. Jesus wouldn’t drop $1.13 in the Salvation Army bucket and then go into the store to shell out $500 for personal electronics, and I don’t think He would give a thought to Obama not saying the word Christmas.
He would be doing what He always does. Loving people who are marginalized, lost and hurting. Jesus would be at the Jersey shore; or in Moore, or Illinois, or Staten Island, or Colorado taking care of people who have lost everything. He would be in the Bowery and off the beaten path, and giving His cloak to the homeless man. He would be going without bread to provide a meal for the hungry. He would be hugging someone who no one else will touch. I think we would be hard pressed to find Him surfing Amazon at midnight for “just one more gift” , munching on cookies and basking in twinkling lights. (Which, lest you think me preaching, is what I was doing last night).
Do we truly want to keep Christ in Christmas? Then we must feed the poor. House the homeless. Comfort the sick and visit the lonely. Stand with the oppressed. Count others as more than ourselves. Love.
This is our banner to carry. Not Target’s, not the White House. And if today every city hall erected a Nativity Scene and every corporation started saying “Merry Christmas” and every school once again had Christmas parties and every tree was a Christmas tree – we are no closer to keeping Christ in Christmas. We have only preserved our sacred cow traditions.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the special nature of the season. The closeness of family and the tradition and the warm feelings. But let’s not mistake that for why Jesus came. Our culture has so fused with our faith, that we think we are celebrating Him when we indulge our own need for these things.
Church, we have failed miserably. I have failed miserably. Keeping Christ in Christmas is not accomplished by “liking” a Facebook status or posting a meme. It is accomplished by continuing the work He came to do. Keeping Christ in Christmas means that we keep, front and center, the Savior King who deigned to come to earth to walk among us, to live like us, to teach us, to die for us, to redeem us and to reconcile us to Himself. We do what He would have us to.
I know several families who have decided that Christmas is not about them exchanging gifts, but using the season to bless others. It has been years since they have had wrapped presents under their own tree – and they will tell you, every one of them, that they would never go back. Because when we step out in love and do the uncomfortable to honor Him, He abundantly honors us. No Keurig coffee maker can EVER match the Love of Christ.
That gift is one which will never be matched. That gift of Love is the perfect gift. That is the gift that needs to be re-gifted over and over.