Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking Christ out of Christmas?

christ-christmas Today I had the most pleasant privilege of chatting with a friend in Winkler, Manitoba where I pastored for a few years over 15 years ago (has it really been that long??).  Peter Wiebe was one of those men whose gentle spirit tended to pull people together; you just hated to disagree with Peter because he was always a gentleman, regardless of how heated a discussion got.    I have been so happy that we have been able to maintain contact from time to time in the past few years.

In our conversation, he mentioned an article that he wrote last year for his church and which he was hoping to get published in a local paper this year. He asked if I would like to see it.  Of course, I said. And so he emailed it to me this afternoon.  I got his permission to post it and so I am going to.  I think that it is an excellent reminder as we enter the Christmas season:

Taking Christ out of Christmas?

“They are taking Christ out of Christmas.” “They don’t even allow their employees to wish their customers a Merry Christmas”. These are concerns I have heard every Christmas for the past ten years or so.

Before we get all worried about the market place and shopping malls taking Christ out of Christmas let’s set the record straight. The word Christmas literally comes from the early church celebrating of the Mass of Christ, the sacrament of communion on the day we celebrate His birthday. This term, Christ mass is a term used long before we had the division of Catholics and Protestants. Although we celebrate it differently Christmas is an important day for both of these groups. Both Catholics and Protestants make an attempt to remind people that Christmas by definition is remembering the death of Christ at the time we celebrate His birthday. The early church had it right, the birth of Christ is only meaningful when we consider His sacrifice.

Recently Verna and I were doing some “Christmas shopping” in one of our fine large urban malls. Verna entered the stores while I window shopped from the benches kindly supplied by mall owners for the men in the crowd. An elderly lady tired of the shopping sat down beside me. We exchanged pleasantries. When she was rested she got up to get back to shopping and I wished her a merry Christmas. She looked back at me with large eyes. I thought she was going to bite my head off, but she said, “Thank you, that is the first time in many years that anyone has said those words to me”. I looked around that day and if memory serves me correctly I did not find one store using the word Christmas it was all, “Happy Holidays”.

Should the church be concerned about the marketplace taking the word Christmas out of the stores? My answer to that is both yes and no. The removal of the word Christmas tells us that our nation is sliding away from its Christian heritage. It does tell us that a spiritual battle is going on. Of course the marketplace is totally oblivious to that. I would like to think that finally the secular world realized the hypocrisy of using Christ to sell their products. I would hope they quit using the word Christmas because they realized that the birth and sacrifice of Christ is more than just a sales gimmick. But alas they were not aware of the hypocrisy. The light came into the world and the world knew Him not. No, they took Christ out of Christmas because it affected the bottom line.

The push to remove Christmas from the malls comes from customers who know what Christmas truly stands for and they can’t stand it. These people object and protest strongly… they want no part of this, get it out of the marketplace they say. They are offended by the gospel of Christ.

So what is a Christian to do about this… there are many opinions. I heard one Christian brother say we should boycott the stores that no longer use the word Christmas. Poor store owners, the non believers boycott you if you use the word Christmas and Christians boycott you it you don’t.

No let us not boycott, but let us spread the good news to all the marketplace. Let us wish those who do not know Christ a Merry Christmas, using the whole meaning of the word. If a store does not use word Christmas let us not avoid them, rather give them an opportunity to know the true meaning of Christmas. On the other hand if a store uses the word Christmas, remind them what Christmas is really about.

So yes, we can be a little offended when the marketplace does not allow its Christian employees to wish us a merry Christmas. But, we should be more than just a little offended when the marketplace uses the birth and suffering of Christ to make a sale.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 53:4 & 5 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

That is what Christmas was and is and always will be! There is nothing the marketplace can do about that!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article! I asked my family today, "Why do we celebrate Christmas?" We had a hard time coming up with an honest answer. We could give the pious answer and do our duty of reading Luke 2 before we satiate our narcisistic characters by devouring ribbons and bows. This is how we celebrate the immensity of the incarnation?? I've rather enjoyed being a Grinch this year (high five to a fellow Grinch). I've had to take a good, hard look at Scripture and the phenomenal doctrine that was surrounded by dung and dust, initially only revealed to a rather unusual crew. I bow before Almighty God, Jesus, in Whom all the fullness of God dwells.