What Good Is Christmas?
Does Christmas serve any useful purpose any more?
Once upon a time, in an age before our much vaunted religious pluralism and cultural diversity, Christmas had significance to our sense of who we were. It meant something to our identity, no just in terms of our culture but in relation to our humanity.
Christmas was a celebration of the time when God came to earth in human form. This was God answering Joan Osborne’s question: ‘What if God was one of us?’
Christmas reminded us that human beings are the most precious creatures in God’s natural order, for God himself had become human. No matter what struggles we faced throughout the year as individuals, families, communities or nations, Christmas reminded us that humanity is so valuable to God that his own Son had come to die, to redeem its fallen potential.
In those bygone days, Christmas also defined the foundations of our civilization. Western societies were built largely on the core values passed on to us by Jesus himself.
Yes, there were times in our history when the institutional church lost touch with the meaning of its creed. It failed to be the city on a hill, the salt of the earth.
Yet, the worst excesses were always overcome by true people of faith who practiced the faith they espoused.
The Christmas season always allowed us an important chance to reflect. It gave us a chance to ponder the eternal truths which were embodied by that small boy born in a cow shed.
Today, it’s a different story. We claim no longer to base our societal values on Christian principles.
We think ourselves more enlightened than our Bible-toting forebears – we no longer need absolutes to act as our moral and spiritual compass. Now, we feel comfortable making things up as we go along.
We have less and less time for the real child of the Christmas story -- and even less for the man he became. We prefer to talk of Father Christmas then Father God.
We decorate trees that shimmer and glow, but think nothing of another tree which became the destiny of the Christmas child.
These days we’d rather sing about jingling bells and snow-rides on sleighs, than offer songs of worship and thanksgiving for the greatest gifts in life.
The awe of the true Christmas spirit is lost to many of us. We see only a dim reflection of that awe in the wonder-filled eyes of our children. We’ve grown up, we say; we’ve moved beyond a belief in God and his miracle-working Saviour of the world.
So, what use is Christmas any more?
Wouldn’t we all be better off saving our hard earned money, protecting our credit limits and getting on with life, without all the fuss? Or, should we hang onto Christmas merely as an excuse to gather family and friends and share the ritual of gift giving?
Some people among the literati and bureaucratic classes would even have us believe that any reference to the Christian side of Christmas is offensive to non-Christians in a multi-cultural society.
In defiance, even non-believers are speaking up to say that we should protect Christmas and its links to the Bethlehem story.
Why do people, Christian and non-Christian alike, want to hold onto Christmas and its Christian links? Because even for non-believers, Christmas represents something good for families, communities and societies in the midst of an often evil world. And Christmas would have no power were we to separate it from Christ, his message and his life.
Christmas is a peaceful season, because Christ is the greatest of all peace-givers. Christmas is such a merry time because the Christ brought hope to the world.
Christmas is a season to celebrate family, because Christ taught us to know God first as a Father, not a Judge. Christmas is a season for giving, because God gave up His Son on the altar of his love.
Without its links to Christ, Christmas would sink under the weight of greedy consumerism. Without its links to Christ, Christmas would cease to be a time for thanksgiving and expire under the heavy hand of self-indulgence.
Without Christ, Christmas would die. And the world would be immeasurably poorer for it.
If Saint Nicholas were here today, he would most certainly agree -- Jesus gave the greatest of all gifts. The season belongs and will always belong to him.
Have a wonderful and Christ-filled Christmas!
Keywords: Christmas | religious pluralism | cultural diversity | Christ | family | Christian | Mal Fletcher
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Mal might be interested by this interview with MTV's Mark Crispin Miller about media & marketing. Thanks for your ministry
Paul Hockley, Norway
I saw your EDGES programme today on tv about witchcraft. Thanks for being a divine appointment to remind me that God's word is the final word - witchcraft is against God, whatever form it comes in...
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