It’s usually this time of year when people reflect on the past year, their successes and challenges, and everything else that comes with them. However, this article is not going to be that.
If you know me, you probably think I’m going to point out some of the ways today’s culture has obscured the real message of Christmas… and you’re right! But not only that, I’d like to challenge us all to take a fresh look at our understanding of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and see how much of it is based on the Bible. After all, this is not an event to be taken lightly.
On the surface, Christmas is seen as an event for the whole family (which, by the way, is a great thing!); it’s that time of year where many exchange gifts, sit around the table for Christmas dinner, and make sandwiches with the left-over turkey in case they go hungry within the next couple of minutes (I can identify with that any time of year). Supermarkets seem to have their playlist stuck on Last Christmas, Driving Home For Christmas, and All I want for Christmas is You. Some parents who reluctantly go to see their children in the school plays are also very often exposed to a less than accurate account of Jesus’ birth. To top these off, many of the faithful don’t necessarily appear to be joyful and triumphant – perhaps their to-do list for the season is as long as one’s arm and has robbed their joy (I can identify with this too). With all of this, it’s just easier to get on with life and try not to relook at the Bible for an authentic account of events. But this is not what the Church has been called to. Whilst these are not necessarily bad things if taken with a pinch of salt, their underlying effects can be detrimental. If these are the main things we associate with Christmas, we have put our own pleasure at the centre. It only tells half the story to our children, forgetting to teach them the perfect plan for the Lion and the Lamb, without whom there is no redemption for this broken world.
Whilst some Christians may have differing opinions over Santa, gifts, etc. in the words of a good friend, “Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing”. Whether you’re of the opinion that Jesus was not born in December, or you celebrate Christmas with passion and zeal, I’m sure we would all agree with the Apostle Peter when he speaks of Jesus that “there is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. 1” Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, do you take the opportunity to use decorated trees to point people to the tree our Saviour was hung on?
Do not allow presumptions to cloud your understanding of the Bible, but rather base your understanding of anything and everything on the Word of God. We are celebrating an event that took place around 2000 years ago, but we’re not going to remain in that era, for we know that so much more has happened after this great, big event. From the birth of Jesus onward, there is so much more to look forward to. From His childhood (which the Bible doesn’t tell us much about), to His ministry, painful death and His resurrection, we have all the reasons to rejoice. The birth of Christ has taught me not only to look back, but also to keep my eyes on what’s to come. Next year we will be celebrating Jubilee’s 20th birthday. Praise God for the day He set the foundations of this church, and glory to Him who is going to take it into the future days and continue leading us in this adventure. Over the past 20 years God has done so much at Jubilee; from people coming to Christ on Alpha to people on their journey made welcome into the family; from the hopeless finding hope to the broken being made whole; from signs and wonders to preaching the hope of the world to the nations, God has worked out His promises in the life of His church. As we give Him thanks and praise for these years, let’s go before Him with grateful hearts, having faith that He has so much more for us. Let’s not become over familiar with what God is doing. Continue to be a people of expectation! Keep praying for the ministry God has called us to!
Going back to my point about our assumptions and understanding of Christmas, I would highly recommend Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes - Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth Bailey. Reading this book will help you understand Christmas, among other things, from a different viewpoint. You can find excerpts of the book here 2.
And until Sunday afternoon when we gather together for Jubilee’s Christmas celebration, I will sing: Glory to God in the highest, and peace (as well as mince pies and mulled wine!) to His people on earth.
- Acts 4:12 (ESV UK)
- Christmas - Middle Eastern Eyes
Sometimes, I can be overwhelmed by so many things that I find myself missing the main thing. What can we learn from Mary and Martha in this area. Who enjoyed Jesus' company more?
We all work for God's glory and sometimes that is from the sidelines or behind the scenes or even on the bench. Are we willing to make that important choice to enable God to work through our lives and that of the church?