I AM A CHRISTMAS CHRISTIAN
Once again it is December. It is the season of goodwill. Joy and expectation abound as we get close to Christmas. This is a time for caring and sharing, family and friends. It is also a time of feasting, singing carols and all the fun of it. Yes! Christmas is a good news of great joy for all the people, because a Saviour is born. He is Christ the Lord (Lk.2:9-14). As the apostle Paul contemplated God's glorious plan of salvation, he exclaimed, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2Cor.9:15). Christ is God's indescribable gift (Jn.3:16). He was given by an indescribably glorious God the Father, to an indescribably needy people (sinners) at an indescribably great cost (the hostility of sinners and the anguish of the cross) to bestow an indescribably great benefit (eternal life).
What Is Christmas?
Christmas, with all its hype and commercialism, heralds for many of us a season of stress. It is almost impossible to find the heart of Christmas in the bombardment of glitzy media materialism. For many of us, expectation, joy, love, peace, tradition and giving are more likely to be replaced by disappointment, loneliness and pain. The season of 'shop till we drop' is emotionally, physically and financially exhausting. Amid the struggle to keep things together, to give beyond cost and cope with pain in its many guises, let us find the light of Christ heralding not seasonal stress, but the promise of eternity beyond our earthbound dreams (Chris Leonard).
Is It Right To Celebrate Christmas?
In my late teens when I was studying in the college, I had a close association with young spiritual friends committed to mission and evangelical work. During the Christmas season, I asked one of these friends, "When are you going home for Christmas?" He told me sarcastically, in a super-spiritual tone, "What is there to celebrate Christmas? Every day is a Christmas for me." He was sounding as though only nominal Christians celebrated Christmas and it was not meant for born-again Christians. This philosophy sounded perfect to me, and that day onwards my attitude changed and declined from the festive feelings, and I distanced myself totally from the celebration considering it was all vague and dry. All my childhood days' preparations and expectations for this season vanished totally from me. Everything seemed like mere programmes and activities meant for fun and frolic.
I started questioning, "Was it on 25th December Jesus was born? What is the proof for that? Christmas is just a celebration of season of exchanging gifts, dine and wine, meat and cake!" Often I used to think about and laugh out the statement of a popular preacher in India about the carol rounds, "Sleepy Christians singing for sleeping Christians" (of course, it is true).
As the years passed on, I started thinking about the various celebrations at home, in our institutions and the nation as a whole-birthdays, wedding days, annual days, memorial days, Independence Day, Labour Day etc-how greatly they are celebrated. Jubilation, excitement, clapping, dancing laughter and hugging are expressions of our overflowing and bubbling joy. Celebrations are reminders of blessings and acknowledgements of great achievements.
Christians, churches, organisations and missionary movements celebrate annual days, decennial celebrations, silver, golden, diamond, platinum jubilees, and centenary and post centenary celebrations. They say that they celebrate the grace and mercies of God upon their ministry. But we should not hide the fact that we want to celebrate our own achievements (we provide facts and figures) also. Very often we forget to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, and instead we exalt leaders. We cheat people, God and ourselves. Instead of singing "We exalt Thee," we (actually) sing, "We exalt us."
Some spiritual churches celebrate breaking bread, Lent, Good Friday and Easter, but not Christmas. Some super spiritual churches are literally closed on Christmas day. I don't know what kind of witness it is! Is it 'glory to God in the highest'?
Why Not Christmas?
The chronological history of the world has been divided as BC and AD in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the anniversaries of national leaders are celebrated in splendour and grandeur, I thought, why not Christmas?
Christmas commemorates a divine event and a divine person-the miraculous birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Unlike most of our holidays, Christmas is not a celebration of an event from human history that commemorates a human achievement or recognises a national milestone. An authentic celebration of Christmas honours the most wonderful divine accomplishments. It recognises that the eternal sovereign God came to earth as a human being to live a righteous life among His people and then to die as a perfect sacrifice to deliver from the wrath of God all who repent and believe.
We should not avoid it or go astray just because certain things are done incorrectly or not up to the standard. The challenge is how best it could be done. Not doing is not the remedy for wrong doing; doing right is the solution for wrong doing.
If there is no birth of Christ, there is no death of Christ. When there is no death of Christ, there is no resurrection of Christ. When there is no resurrection of Christ there is no Christianity.
Christianity Starts From Christmas
We are living dangerously in the days when theological views are getting changed. Some Christian rebels go to the extent of saying, "Why should we pray? Why should we go to church?" But we have been warned in Leviticus 6 how should we celebrate and observe festivals and important days to remind future generations about these.
We may criticise to the core about the arrangements, decorations, dinners and other festive gadgets; as if we don't dress, decorate and dine for other celebrations of family and other places! Let us have everything, except which is forbidden and sinful in nature. There are several meaningful and sensible methods to celebrate Christmas.
Paul's Doctrine On Birth Of Christ
Romans 1 asserts that Jesus was born the Son of David and the Son of God. Galatians 4:4 says that in the fullness of time God brought forth His Son, born of a woman and subject to the Law. Ephesians 3 introduces the concept of the mystery of Christ, that God has now revealed the truth of His Son in human flesh to the Jews and the Gentiles (1Tim.3). Philippians 2 teaches us that Christ, during His incarnation, laid aside the form of deity to take on the form of humanity to die on the cross. Colossians 2 makes the sweeping and profound statement that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ. But there is one other crowning passage that provides divine insight into the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1). I believe that it is particularly important to understand this passage if we would have a complete grasp of the significance of Jesus' birth.
A true Christian should never take the story of Christ's birth for granted. Even when read from the human perspective, the narrative of Christ's entrance into this world ought to remain forever fresh, fascinating, and awe-inspiring. The Christmas season gives believers the opportunity to ponder anew this unfathomable gift. Ours is an age in which doctrine is disdained and Christmas is reduced to mere sentimentality. By rigorously focussing on Scripture teachings about the gift of God's Son, Christians can avoid being swept along by the tides of the popular Christmas and become instrumental in, as the saying goes, "putting Christ back into Christmas."
Other than the usual carols, plays, dances, gifts and dinners, the following suggestions may be added to Christmas celebration to make it meaningful, spiritual and useful to our souls. 1. A Bible study every year on how Christ is revealed from Genesis to Revelation. 2. A study on prophecies in the Scriptures about Christ and His birth and their fulfilment. 3. A study on various hymns and songs written by saints regarding theological values and the Christology revealed in them. (When missionary movements are considered as an extension of the Acts of Apostles, let us admit that hymns and the songs written by saints are also an extension of the Book of Psalms.) 4. Carol Services emphasising the meaning and spiritual values of each hymn.
Let our singing bring glory to God (not glory to choir, choirmaster, composer or anybody, for that matter). "I will not share My glory to anyone," says the Lord. Let our singing bring peace to men, and happiness not only to the singers or the leaders, but also to listeners in theatres, auditoriums, assemblies, churches, institutions, orphanages, homes for the aged, to the sick and the suffering and to those who are yet to know that a Saviour is born.
Instead of lavishly spending on bells, lights and sophistication inside the church and the institutions, let us be liberal and meaningful in giving to the poor and the underprivileged. Let us provide good, new clothes and the best food, instead of old clothes and cheap food. Let the city and town churches, instead of concentrating more on their buildings and members of their church, turn their eyes towards the rural and remote places in their agenda and budget for this season.
In Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the Lord very often commanded Moses and the Israelites that God delivering them from Egypt and His marvellous works should be made known to their future generations. Thus the whole season can be used for the revival of the members of the church and bringing new souls to Christ. The shepherds spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child (Lk.2:17). Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all (Lk.2:38).
We call our fellow brethren with different names based on their identity and attendance to the church, viz., wedding Christians, baptism Christians, cemetery Christians, Easter Christians, Christmas Christians, etc. Whatever and however it may be, I would like to call myself as a 'Christmas Christian.' I want to celebrate Christmas, because I want to honour the act of God who made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. Immortal, invisible, inaccessible God became 'Immanuel' to be with us. I want to celebrate Christmas. Yes! I want to be a Christmas Christian.
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst" (1Tim.1:15). Therefore, early in the morning on 25th December, when the enchanting church bells chime inviting people for the Christmas service, it gives me unknown pleasant feelings, and emotions and holy reverence haunt me when I think of the birth of Christ somewhere in a corner of the world 2000 years ago. It makes me sing in awe and inspiration:
Yes, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning.
Jesus to Thee, be all glory given:
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord.
Yes, I am a Christmas Christian.