The Why’s of Christmas”
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV Luke 2:8-14)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it changed things!
When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 it REALLY changed things! That’s not meant to say Dickens was more important than Jesus, but rather to make a point about what we have done to Christmas.
Before the British author wrote the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas was not viewed as a major holiday. In fact, in the early part of the 1800’s very few American Protestants celebrated Christmas because it was seen as being “too Catholic!”
Dickens’ tale of greed turned to generosity brought a different spirit and perspective to the season. It helped that he was already a recognized author with novels like Oliver Twist, and The Old Curiosity Shop.
Christmas now dominates our calendars. I asked the children during a recent Sunday morning worship what they knew about the Season of Advent. One boy’s response was “Isn’t that when we do a calendar where a piece of chocolate pops out for each day?”
Yes…and it’s also the season that has become populated with other yearly sweets…like fruitcake, fudge, and candy canes. It’s the time of the year when our mailbox gets product advertisements for almond toffee candy, over-priced pears and apples, and popcorn in a tin!
I know…I know, I’m sounding like a “Bah! Humbug” withered old man who doesn’t want to part with his nickels and dimes. Actually, I love Christmas! I love it even more now that I’m not a full-time pastor. I can now actually enjoy the season and meditate on its message, as opposed to planning extra services, and taking care of all the church-related extra details.
Sometimes, in all our busyness about the business we forget to think about the why’s of what we’re doing. Celebrating the Christ-child becomes a short-term sermon series…and then we move on. Christmas is seen as an emphasis, complete with decorated sanctuaries, children’s programs, and star-shaped cookies (There’s that sweet thing again!).
But the coming of Immanuel was a foretold event that was meant to change things forever. It signaled God’s love for his created, and reconciliation then and now. That has been, and should always be, the why of the event.
Charles Dickens raised the popularity of Christmas by writing a story about a man who was visited by three ghosts, who MADE him see his past, his present, and what was yet to be. In essence, it had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus but rather of personal revelation of how one man’s deeds and misdeeds affected others.
It’s a great story, but not THE story. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks. God has been and still is writing the story of grace, forgiveness, and new life.
Prayer: Lord, this Christmas season let us not get caught up too much in the secular trappings of Christmas that we miss THE story of grace, forgiveness, and new life.
Bill writes frequently about life, faith, and middle school students. Read his writings at his blog site, WordsfromWW.com.
First Baptist Church