Nobody took Christ out of Christmas (2023)

SSometimes it's hard to be a Christian at Christmas. OK, it's not that difficult. After all, we do this every year. Still, it seems harder than it should be. Why does a faith-focused holiday often feel iffy? Why does celebrating peace on Earth seem to involve so much fear and anxiety? How can we worry at the same time that Christmas is overdue and is being cancelled? where are you natal Why can't I find you?

I once heard a psychologist talk about how avoidance increases fear. This happened to a friend. She began refusing to take trips that included an expressway. The more she avoided being on the road, the more restrictions piled up. In the end, she didn't want to leave the house at all. Avoiding doesn't work; It's time to face our worries about Christmas. If we look them straight in the eye, they aren't as scary as we thought. There's a friendly glint in that eye.

euLet's start with doubts. There are many unlikely things in the nativity story: the star, the angels, the wise men, and of course the virgin birth. If you've never doubted the virgin birth, you've probably never thought about it.

And it's not bad to think about it. The virgin birth must surprise you. It is a conscious and divine provocation. Like the burning bush, it's meant to draw you in because you can't resist getting involved with it, even if your first reaction is doubt.

There is a biblical parallel to Mary's conception of Jesus in Anna's conception of Samuel (1 Sam. 1). High Priest Eli is a busy man who is not easily distracted from his everyday life. But God causes him to turn on his side to observe Hannah praying fervently. He thinks she's drunk. This is the obvious explanation for his erratic behavior.

Eli's starting point is the confusion between holiness and sinfulness. But God calls his attention to believe that a miraculous conception will take place and a leader of God's people will be born.

Many of us make a similar mistake with Maria. When we hear about Mary's pregnancy, our first thought is probably that Mary must have had premarital sex. It's the obvious explanation. But when you announce a virgin pregnancy, God gets your attention. He makes you think about the story he wants you to think about, and that was his goal all along.

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To doubt something is to think about it. Mary's own reaction - "How can this be?" – was right and holy because she was not mocking; she thought.

Pioneer of the scientific method, Francis Bacon, once remarked, “If a man begins with certainties, he will end with doubts; but if he is content to begin with doubts, he will end with certainties”.

Our faith often works this way, even with miracles. We don't need to start with full faith and acceptance. We must start with interest.

However, some of us are more concerned that others will have questions: children, siblings, friends, or perhaps even spouses or beloved members of our churches. We might even worry that our entire culture is losing faith. Then I have good news for you: Christmas is your ally in the battle between belief and disbelief.

As an expert in this field, I can safely say that, in general, atheists love Christmas. They see it as the most welcoming Christianity. Unbelievers generally feel closest to the faith at Christmastime.

I have a friend who was once a devout Christian. He went through a process of deconstructing his beliefs, left the church and felt free to say that he no longer believed in God.

But a few years ago he told me with some embarrassment that he had returned to his old church for the Christmas service. Since then, his way of talking about Christianity has softened noticeably. I would not be surprised to hear one day that he had returned to Christ.

George MacDonald had astute insight when he wrote "A Scottish Christmas Carol' (1865) as a modern retelling of the parables of the prodigal son and the lost sheep, in which a shepherd's daughter rescues her prodigal brother at Christmas. Christmas draws even skeptics to the faith rather than repelling them.

If you're skeptical about Christmas' appeal to non-believers, it might be because you associate Christmas with chilling revelations about the doubts of others. Christmas is often a time when, after a year of no contact, we get closer to the people we love and find out what's really going on in their lives.

When someone is no longer a believer, we usually find out at Christmas, when the celebration of the holiday in a devout Christian family is all about worship, prayer and faith. The lack of participation is noticeable. Christmas does not cause disbelief; It's just a moment to find out what someone's life is like right now.

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And it's better to know than not to know. Your task is to continue to accompany your loved ones on their life path. There may be Christmas cheer waiting for you in the future as you appreciate your faith even more because it has come back to life after years of unbelief. Again, true faith usually comes after doubt.

THere's a persistent urban legend that Christmas is really pagan. Unbelievers sometimes like to pinch Christians with this statement. Christians often react with evasion and don't get to the bottom of the issue for fear that it is true.

Well, I looked it up and I can tell you it's not true. To editO Oxford Natal Manual, I spent more than three years systematically reading the grant at Christmas, as well as countless historical documents. You can be sure that Christmas is Christian.

One of the main reasons for the charge of paganism is that the date of Christmas seems to have been chosen to coincide with the winter solstice, a pagan holiday season. However, a solstice is a natural phenomenon, not a religious one.

It was common practice for ancient societies, including Israel, to establish their holy days according to the movements of the sun and moon; it was the most practical way of keeping time. The Bible even teaches that one of the reasons God created the sun and moon was so that humans could mark sacred seasons (Genesis 1:14). It is preposterous to suggest that part of creation inherently has pagan overtones.

Since the Scriptures do not give us a date for Christ's birth, the Church probably chose December 25th for the celebration because it was an easy way for the common people to know when Christmas time was each year and because it was a appropriate time for symbolic commemorations. reasons.

The winter solstice is the time when the days of greatest darkness end and the light grows stronger: "The true light, which gives light to all, has come into the world" (John 1:9).

Also plant decorations or perennials are not pagan. We know this first because nothing God created is heathen. The Israelites were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Ingathering by going into the land to gather evergreens (Lev. 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15).

Second, we can trace some claims that traditional perennial decorations are pagan to 19th-century fiction and propaganda. Writer Washington Irving added color to one of his novels by inventing the notion that the Church believed that mistletoe was tainted with paganism.

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German nationalists had the idea that Christmas trees derived from a Saxon pagan practice because they wanted to make Christmas a celebration of German identity.

The true origin of the Christmas tree was the medieval European sacred plays that were staged at Christmas time. These pieces told the biblical story of salvation and included a decorated evergreen tree representing the tree of life. It became a symbol of the era.

It makes sense that some European pagan traditions overlap with Christian traditions from the same region. People always express themselves through the cultural resources available to them and, in the same place, people often have the same resources.

You can see a parallel in the Fourth of July celebration in the United States. National colors, flag, music, fireworks, food - aspects of all these features are clearly borrowed from British culture. However, it would be ridiculous to suggest that US Independence Day is actually a celebration of Great Britain.

Likewise, Christmas is not pagan; it is truly a celebration of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the theological message of Christmas – the doctrine of the Incarnation – sanctifies this truth that God comes to work in, with and through our cultures. Because a child was born to us.

DAll believers in wealthy nations are expected to lament that Christmas has become less than Christian because it is characterized by excess and consumerism rather than selflessness. Amidst the preparations and festivities, can we really think about God? Shouldn't our money be spent on more sacred things?

But why should Christmas mean selflessness? There is a time and a season for everything. There is a time to fast and a time to feast.

As part of His worship life, Jesus Himself would have observed the holy days of Purim. The Scriptures gave clear instructions on how to do this: "to keep the days as days of feasting and rejoicing, distributing food to one another and giving gifts to the poor" (Esther 9:22).

The biblical way to celebrate some sacred moments is with feasting, rejoicing, and gifts. We should give gifts “to each other” – meaning our own social circle – and “to the poor”, meaning charities, or finding other ways to help those who need it more than we do. Both are Christmas traditions and both are recommended in Scripture. That's right: these gifts aren't just a ploy to get the economy moving. They are biblical and a universal way to celebrate.

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But did partying in the Bible really mean what we think it means today? A biblical definition of feasting is consuming food and drink in greater quantity and quality than usual. Of course, overeating, drinking too much, or spending too much is also wrong at Christmas.

But the time has come to celebrate with more than usual. A marriage should be celebrated by giving and feasting, as Jesus himself testified in his first miracle. Like Purim and weddings, Christmas is also a suitable time for feasting and giving. Good Christian men and women, rejoice!

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FFinally, many Christians fear that Christmas will become secular. I think this concern is looking at the holiday backwards. In our culture, Christmas is the least secular time of the year - and the holiday season makes up 10% of the year! Our entire culture is geared toward making it easier to talk about Jesus during the holiday season. Even the Salvation Army is suddenly becoming part of the mainstream culture in some way.

We cannot force our secular culture to celebrate Christmas in a Christian way, any more than we can force Americans to spend Good Friday contemplating the meaning of Christ's death. And yet, our culture is surprisingly interested in the Christian aspects of Christmas. A Christian holy day is also a federal holiday. Many churches gather their largest congregation of the year at Christmas.

A study of the streaming service Spotifyshowed thatThe most covered Christmas carols include "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night". December's top-played songs include "Mary, Did You Know?"

I live in the Chicago area and there is a radio station here that uses the standard rock format most of the year. But for the last 10% of the year, you might tune in and hear, "Joy to the world! The Savior reigns," or be asked to "cast out our sin" and let Jesus in, or receive a "message of comfort and joy" because “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.” We should be grateful that even pop stations sometimes play songs proclaiming the salvation of Jesus Christ for six weeks each year.

Concerns about secularism are concerns about what is happening in our culture despite - not because of - Christmas. As with the relatives we meet at Christmas, the holiday season can be a time when we realize our culture is becoming less Christian. If so, this is information we should want rather than try to avoid.

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We are completely free to celebrate Christmas in a Christian way. But maybe that's the real problem: we think we've become too secular at Christmas. Part of our environmental anxiety stems from feeling guilty about not living up to our own ideals. The solution is to face the problem, look it in the eye, and figure out what we need to change to make our own Christmas celebrations more Christ-centered. Nothing prevents us from emphasizing worship, prayer, and Scripture as part of our celebrations.

It's time to get rid of all holiday worries. The Christmas message contains these words of comfort: "Do not be afraid" (Luke 2:10). This is not the time to suppress our joy. Take a tip from an angel and let go of your fears around you.

Timothy Larsen teaches at Wheaton College and is the editor ofO Oxford Natal Manual.

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