Hate me forever, label me a heretic, or just defriend me, but I just don’t think Jesus is as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture. I get what people are trying to say when they shout, “put Christ back in Christmas.” But truthfully, I am so sick of the pretentious, religiously-spirited, gag-me-with-a-multicolored-pitchfork, version of Christianity that statement often spews from. Besides, we didn’t put Christ in Christmas in the first place, I hardly think we can take Him out of it. I mean seriously, is God really that offended and upset by it all? Is our culture really going to hell in a hand basket, and our celebration of Christmas as a culture just a reflection of that? Truly, I wonder what some Christians would do with themselves if there were nothing in our about our culture they could find to bark at, judge, and condemn?
I would suggest that some of the things we do as a culture with Christmas that are deemed so off-message are in fact some deep, sacred longings placed in our hearts by God Himself. Things that would seem to indicate that we are so far from what Christmas is about, in fact, might be closer than we ever believed!
“God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Isn’t that what the lights, candles and glitzy decorations are all about? We long for a celestial, cozy, dreamy world where our senses are dazzled with snowy peace, bright purity, and the visually fantastic. Maybe we don’t flesh it out all perfectly and theologically, but deep down, we want what God has prepared for us… heaven; this world renewed and reconciled back to God. Heaven, the world of the fantastic, pure, celestial, and a dreamy eternity. We want a world where the baseline stories (many secular) of Christmas live; good wins over evil, our priorities are placed in the right order, families heal and last forever, life is everlasting, and things are restored to how they should be. That’s Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, Elf, and the list goes on and on. Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we first believed. It’s all a longing for heaven and a longing for Grace. Ironically, two of the things the “church” and many Christians are the most stingy about.
Or what about the packages, the ribbons, and the bows. Is it really all that bad? God did create us to be blessed, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and yes, materialistically. Sure, some of us rush ahead to take it for ourselves; that’s obviously not good. But, the sense and longing to have blessed lives where we were created to receive (from the Lord) with abundance is still under the surface, it’s their deep in our hearts. God put it there. It’s heaven isn’t it? It’s Grace isn’t it? Where everyone has (and knows that they already have in Christ) what they need and are blessed by the Lord to beyond satisfaction, never hungry nor thirsty again. Our inheritance from the Lord, fully given by Him and fully received by us, with wealth beyond measure. That’s Grace, is it not?
And then, the giving. We have this deep sense that we are created to be blessed to be a blessing. We all want to give, to have something worth giving. Maybe we try to purchase this experience from malls, shopping centers, and online sprees, but we just want to love and be loved, God put that in our heart. That’s heaven isn’t? Where we love and are loved without restraint or limit. Where we have everything to receive and to give. That’s Christmas. That’s Jesus. That’s heaven. That’s Grace!
Isn’t all of this what we love about Christmas. It’s magical like that.
We call it magical because that’s the best word we can find, it’s the closest word we can think of as we get a touch of the eternity God wrote in our hearts and the Grace He has given to us. But, God knows the perfect and complete words. God calls it Jesus… Heaven… Christmas… Grace. Truth is, it’s better than magical… it’s all real, it’s heaven, it’s Him. Wrapped up in one package… Grace.
Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we believe? Maybe Jesus isn’t as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture. Maybe, many of the people ranting things like, “put Christ back in Christmas” are in fact the ones who are the most successful at taking Him out and turning people away from seeing the true Gospel… all Grace, all the time… and all heaven, now and for all time.
In fact, maybe it’s the religiously-spirited Christians who want to take Christ out of Christmas the most, because when you truly have Christ in Christmas, there is only Grace; no more place for fear tactics, Law, religious rules, “hunger for Jesus,” platforms from which to condemn and judge, or “to do lists” in the Christian life. There is no more need to “work on your life,” “become successful for Jesus,” and “change the world for Christ.” Grace shows us that Christ finished the work on your life on the cross, you don’t become a better person through your efforts, you are a better person because of Christ’s complete effort on the cross. You don’t become successful, Jesus already made you you successful. Success is what you are, not something you accomplish. God’s greatest desire and calling for your life is to simply enjoy Jesus, as you realize you don’t change the world. God changed you and you just go be yourself… you are the change.
Maybe it’s the “churchy” religiously-spirited, canned Christian culture of our day that is the one that hates the thought of truly having Jesus in Christmas because so much of what they prescribe, assert, declare, do, create, and teach is rendered powerless, useless, and even evil by the advent of pure Grace born into the world in a manger. See, Grace isn’t a new theology or fad, it’s a person… Jesus.
So, when you take Grace out of Christmas, you have taken Jesus out. Now, who does it sound like would want to do that the most? The broken and humble who sense they need it , or the religious who want to control it, ration it, and mix it with rules and regulations so they can keep their religious oratories and organizations afloat with people who come back for more and more because all their trying, striving, and Christian performance never measures up and never satisfies for long.
Grace is the antidote religious pimps don’t want their addicted followers to discover. It’s not good for business.
“Put Christ back in Christmas!” That’s right, “Church,” put Christ (Grace) back in Christmas!
Gotta run, looks like my blow-up lawn Santa needs to be pumped up. Ho, ho, ho!