It’s the time of year when we reflect on the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation and the glory of God. As the song says, in many ways it IS the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the time when well-meaning Christians sometimes get a little theological B.O. (we believe rightly but we stink about [...]
It’s the time of year when we reflect on the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation and the glory of God. As the song says, in many ways it IS the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s also the time when well-meaning Christians sometimes get a little theological B.O. (we believe rightly but we stink about it) by how we treat unbelievers who greet us with “happy holidays,” as we (sometimes) retort, “You mean merry Christmas!” We know we must keep Christ in Christmas, after all. I am not sure, however, that our reminders to keep Christ in Christmas should go any farther than the church, given the fact that too often one can hardly see a difference between Christ-followers and unbelievers on Black Friday or other major shopping opportunities.
I would like to ask us–myself being the first of us–to consider something a little different this Christmas. First, let’s remember the term “Christmas” itself is not a biblical one, nor is the practice of celebrating our Lord’s birth. That does not at all prohibit us from celebrating this humanity-altering event, but it should give us pause long enough to consider whether the materialism of the season has shaped our zeal for the holiday more than our theological commitments.
I want to consider yet another idea: what if this year we decide to keep the -Mas in Christmas? The word Christmas actually comes from “Christ’s Mass,” dating back to about the fourth century when the church began to celebrate the the Lord’s Supper at a time of remembrance of Christ’s birth.
I and my tradition understand the Lord’s Supper as an ordinance, not a sacrament. We celebrate Communion in remembrance of Christ’s death for our sins. And herein is the simple point I want to make: The “mas” in the term should remind us why the Christ came: to be our atoning sacrifice for sin. He did not come ultimately to be a cute baby, a winsome youth, a miracle worker, or to be a great teacher. He came to be the Savior of the world. There is much wisdom in keeping a very close linkage between the birth and death of our Lord.
Maybe thus reality hits a little closer to home this Christmas because I write this sitting in a hospital waiting room as my mom has an arteriogram awaiting heart surgery tomorrow. The reality of my mother’s faith in Christ’s work seems a lot more vital than the latest stocking stuffer. The atonement of Christ is made possible by His birth, which gives us hope whether we gather around a Christmas tree or to pray for a loved one.
This Christmas let us beware making our priority the promoting of our subculture or even subtly fighting the culture wars by insisting all people, even those who do not follow Christ, greet us with “Merry Christmas.” But when we who love Jesus think of the term, and especially when we say it, let us recall how when Jesus came, He did for us what we could not do for ourselves (II Corinthians 5:21), and because of His sacrifice everything has changed.
And that reality should make us more than merry; it should fill us with glory.