I have a lot to rant about when it comes to Christmas. Although I think this is true for almost everybody: it’s a season of contention and controversy.
People try to make the season please everybody: don’t let it be only for Christians; mass-produce festive cheer; make the movies only happy and full of fluff. But the only people the season succeeds in pleasing are little kids and those really big faceless businesses.
Everyone else grows up and finds that it’s not the season they always thought it was – it’s not as innocent and carefree as they remember.
Nope, it’s full of problems, which include overplayed Christmas songs since November the 1st, families that can’t spend the day together without fighting, having to spend all their savings on Christmas shopping, having to follow traditions that have become more like law than optional fun, and competing with neighbours in who can blind the most motorists with the most garishly decorated house.
Christmas in ‘the west’ has become a noisy, blaring, blinding mess of a season. This is not to say that it cannot be enjoyable, but in my experience it is an uphill struggle, fighting against all the horrible bits and having to live with the acceptable bits, just to be able to have an enjoyable Christmas. A lot of it is in your attitude I suppose. I’m sure you won’t believe me, but in the run up to Christmas I determine to do what I can to make it a great season and I start to really look forward to it. It’s during the rest of the year that I can look at Christmas and shake my head in dismay at what we’ve turned it into.
What do I think Christmas should be? That’s challenging question, but I’m glad you asked.
Ideally, I think Christmas should be a celebration only for Christians. Yeah! All you other guys can have the holiday, and you’re welcome to come along the the church services, but please don’t bring out any more Christmas singles; don’t decorate the halls with tinsel and feminine angels, and please don’t fill the shops’ cash registers with all your money. Don’t make any more movies filled with feel-good messages that teach us that humanity is basically good, all you need to do is believe in yourself, or your children, or Santa. Stop encouraging the lies, encouraging a feel-good gospel where Jesus never grows up. Stop burying the truth in tradition and disguising the sin with tinsel.
Jesus did not come to earth to give us a lovely story we can get our five-year-olds to reenact for our own entertainment. He didn’t remain an infant – we can’t tell our children “fighting makes the baby Jesus cry” and guilt them into good behaviour.
The truth is that God came to earth as a human being, put Himself in our sinful hands, healed our diseases, had compassion on our wandering souls, and allowed us to kill Him. God gave Himself up as a sin offering. Taking the punishment for our wrongs on Himself, He died for our sins so that we don’t have to. And He came back to life so that even when we die, we can live forever.
Why is that not the over-arching message during the Christmas season? Why is that not all we hear from the radios and T.V.s? I’ll tell you: because it’s crazy! Very few people believe this stuff, so everyone else over-rides the weird Christian message with Christmas number ones and feel-good movie plots and inoffensive traditions. And they argue that giving gifts and spending time with family are good things; being friendly to strangers, giving money to the homeless, and ‘doing good deeds’ for one month in the year, well, what’s bad about that? Surely that’s good enough? Surely we don’t need to be told all that stuff about being sinful and needing a saviour?
Well I’d argue that they sound as if they believe in Santa.
In December, parents all over the world tell their children that they need to behave themselves or else Santa won’t bring them any gifts. They tell the poor kids that Santa’s got his list out and he’s watching them all the time – so be good for goodness sake! They bribe their children with the promise of presents, teaching them what they might ultimately believe themselves: that if you’re a good enough person you will be rewarded.
The unpleasant truth, however, is that we can never be a good enough person to come into the perfect God’s presence; our good deeds are like filthy rags, and all we deserve is punishment for all the bad stuff we’ve done, said, and even thought. Merry Christmas!
The gospel, however, tells us this good news: God loves us awful people so much that He gave up His perfect Son, so that whoever merely believes in the punishment He received on the cross in our place – and in His resurrection from the dead – will get the rewards they don’t deserve and will not only be allowed in God’s presence, but will be called His beloved child. He embraces us despite every selfish and horrible thing we’ve done, said, and thought, and gives us gifts beyond measure just because He loves us.
Not at all like Santa.
So, as Christmas approaches, remember that it is a season of celebration for Christians: we celebrate our Saviour’s birth – our God humbling Himself to show us His immeasurable love. It is not a season to do good and get rewarded, it’s a season to remember how bad we are and to be thankful for our undeserved blessings. It’s not a time to sing songs and feel glad, it’s a time to rejoice and let our joy overflow as songs of praise to our awesome God. It’s not a season to spend time and money buying gifts for everyone on our ‘Christmas lists,’ it’s a season to remind others of God’s great gift and not expect anything in return.
Ah, well. That’s enough of that ranting. I hope it was somehow of some benefit to you. I promise that my next Christmas rant will be a nice, positive one.