Christmas without Christ?
CHRISTMAS, it's that time of year when families get together, friends realise they really do love one another and suddenly that person you couldn't stand in the office two weeks ago isn't that bad after all. Christmas is a wonderful time of year for most people living in Britain regardless, very often, of ethnicity or religion, gender or age.
But the carefree Christmas of the past, Christmas as a given, has come to face a rather unexpected challenge in recent years. The secularist campaign is merciless and its goal is clear: to obliterate Christ from Christmas.
Just last month the Royal Mail released its Christmas stamp collection which was noticeably lacking a Christian theme. Meanwhile, a number of local councils and shops are putting up their lights and decorations to celebrate the dull, obscure, meaningless and ultimately pointless
As the secularist movement continues its drive to eradicate Christ from Christmas Christians have to take a fresh look at why this is happening and what responsibility we have to take for this development. As regretful as this development is, it shows no sign of receding. So what can Christians do to restore Christmas to its rightful owner – Christ?
Firstly, as Christians we need to look at the way in which we are celebrating Christmas.
Are we doing enough to reveal that a Christmas without Christ is so utterly unfulfilling in comparison to a Christmas spent with Christ? Is it clear to non-believers that Christ makes a difference?
Has Christmas just become about Santa, a nice tree, some presents and a party to us as well? Is the development of Winterval not an honest reflection of what Christmas has already become – and what we have allowed it to become?
Or if not, does it remain the case that non-believers at least perceive our Christmas as nothing more out of the ordinary than this?
Apostle Paul said, 'Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!' But preaching is not the responsibility only of the one standing behind the pulpit. Preaching is something that any Christian can do – and without words too – as they live out the Word in their lives.
Our testimony is so important to the way those outside the faith perceive us. We need to use our mouths to testify how great this time of year is not because we are seeing family whom we haven't seen for a long time or because we are getting a few days extra holiday from work.
Rather our words need to express a deeper joy that comes from celebrating the fact that God sent Christ as the light to save us from the darkness of this world, without which light we would be utterly lost.
And we need to be demonstrating that the birth of Christ makes a difference not only to our Christmas but also to our lives beyond Christmas. Nonbelievers need to be able to see that for us Christmas is only the start of our joy, not the end as it is for most people who don't know Christ or the real meaning of Christmas. And this is where self-reflection is vital: for what reason am I as a Christian, a believer of Christ, celebrating Christmas?
We know that Christ makes a difference; Christian converts really know that Christ makes an unbelievable difference. Now we need to make that known through our actions, our testimonies.
This is a time when Christians have to revisit the command of Christ - to let our light shine in this world. We have to consider again just how much we are really letting our light shine. Do non-believers see in us something different at Christmas or do they see Christians just going through the same rituals as they are; exchanging gifts, attending carol services. Are we making our joy evident to all?
Non-believers need to know that a Christmas which is about little more than presents, parties, and good food does not bring deep and lasting spiritual fulfilment. Amos 8 says that the famine of this era is not simply a hunger for food or a thirst for water. Thankfully, most people in this country don't need presents.
So what do they need? To answer this we need to know what the true famine in this era is. The famine of this era is a hunger for true love – the love that only God can bring and that can only be realised through Christ. People are spiritually hungry and they are hungry for something that will not fill them up just momentarily but eternally.
We need to reveal that when Christmas is spent rejoicing the birth of Christ, the Son of God, we get more than just presents; we get the deep spiritual fulfilment that cannot be bought in any shop or gift catalogue for any amount of money.
We can complain and protest to our local councils over this year's winterval celebrations or anywhere else that we perceive Christ is being eradicated from the Christmas celebrations. That is also necessary. But there is something else we can do.
When the Christian delivers his card to his non-churchgoing neighbour next door does he mention anything about what he is doing with his church this weekend to celebrate Christmas?
Does he invite them along to come and see what his Christmas is all about? If they don't know why they are even celebrating Christmas then it is the job of the Christians to tell them.
If secularists are intent on removing Christ from Christmas then there are two ways we can respond: we can either let ourselves feel pressed down or we can see what a wonderful opportunity this is to let the light of the gospel within us shine to all around us. What a wonderful opportunity we have to tell the world that they have it so wrong about Christmas.
What a wonderful opportunity this is to tell the world that they are invited to the one banquet where the water turns to wine, and not the other way round. Apostle Paul said,
'If God is with us, who can be against us?' This is the reassurance we have; this is the privilege of Christians. God is with us and Christmas belongs to God.
When we celebrate Christmas we do not celebrate it on our own but God is with us – after all, it was the birth of His Son!
So let's do our part well as Christians and use the mouths God has given us to testify the true joy of Christianity and Christmas, to stand up for our Christmas, and let's have more faith that God will take care of the rest. We may be persecuted but we are most definitely not abandoned by the Lord - and neither is Christmas.