Charlie Brown lamented as he attempted to lead the Christmas pageant, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” This is a sentiment that I have wondered a lot about myself. If you watch the media reports, you would think Christmas is all about helping retailers get their balance sheets in order. Christmas has turned into shopping and rushing around. That is not what Christmas is actually about at all. Gift giving is not the point because we have been given the greatest gift we could have been given in Jesus Christ. Christmas has been confused for something that it really was not intended to be.
Every year there seems to be this tension that surrounds Christmas. Of course I am not talking about the usual tension that comes from gift giving, cookie baking, card sending, and family entertaining. What I mean is the tension between a religious holiday and the secular attempt at removing any religious significance from it. Often people will say that schools, or any public display for that manner, must remain ‘neutral’ because religion is too divisive. It is only divisive because they make it divisive. When they say that ‘religious freedom’ really means ‘religious freedom only when in your house,’ there is a natural division there.
The interesting piece of this came to me in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal sometime last week. The article was titled When Christmas Was Banned in Massachusetts. The article says that the Pilgrims did not recognize December 25th as any significant day. They thought that since it was not in the Bible, that they should not celebrate it. Of course, it was not long before there was disagreement about working on Christmas Day. Governor Bradford told the Christmas partiers that they could take the day off, but they could not celebrate in the streets at all, but instead needed to stay in their homes. Eventually, according to this article, they actually outlawed Christmas for 22 years. I guess they missed the point.
Yet, the interesting thing is we are still seeing much of the same thing. We are told to “keep our religion to ourselves” while the world preaches materialism and new age thinking as gospel. The idea of celebrating Christmas as a celebration of Christ is so offensive to some people that they go to great lengths to keep any religious ‘paraphernalia’ out of any public place. That seems harsh, especially since this country has a diverse pool of people. Why would we remove religious displays when religion is an important part of the lives of many people? This is not the intent of the Constitution at all. We are free to respectfully believe in whatever we would like.
This Christmas the world and our church have collided in an abrupt way. When the person came to our church building in the early morning hours, poured gasoline on the cedar shingles, and lit a match, a very significant symbol of our faith was destroyed. As sad as that is for us, we don’t lose hope because the destruction does not define us. The hope of Christmas reminds us that God is always with us, building or not. Christmas is about Jesus Christ, literally Christ’s Mass. We celebrate God leaving His throne, taking on flesh, and making a way for our salvation. We will not keep that to ourselves because it is such good news.
May God show to each of us the love that He has for us. The reason He did what He did was because He loves us so much. We did not deserve it at all. And while Christmas is not in the Bible, the birth of Christ is, and that is the point. What a wonderful time of year for all of us to stop, reflect, and worship our Lord for what He has done for us. This is something worth far more than any amount of money businesses might hope to make this Christmas, and any gift we might receive ourselves.
Go tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born!