The Merry In Christmas
THE MERRY IN CHRISTMAS
Having been raised in the church, I grew up in a household where we celebrated Christmas in a somewhat secular fashion. A tree was adorned with lights and ornaments and it even had a star on the top. Our house was trimmed with garlands and bright lights. We opened gifts on Christmas morning. We were a Bible-believing family, but seldom were the Scriptures the focal point of the holiday. At that time in the history of our fellowship (as churches of Christ) we were matter-of-factly informed that the Scriptures nowhere instructed the early Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ the Lord, especially not on December the 25th. Simply put, there was no book, chapter or verse that authorized such. That line of reasoning also tended to put a damper on singing Christmas hymns in mid-December. After all, we had to remain distinctive and not be like the other churches. Strangely however, our church was permitted to go Christmas caroling, and we often sang songs like, Joy To The World and Silent Night. The rationale seemed to be that it was okay to do these things as long as we were not doing them as a church - - and especially not doing such “in our building".
For most of my preaching career I have been pushing back against this kind of weird dichotomizing. Some-times I pushed gently and at other times I pushed a bit harder and usually received some flack. As I read the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus I hear words that sound like a celebration. In Mt.2:1-2, the Magi declared, we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. When they arrived at Jesus’ home, the text plainly states, (the magi) fell down and worshipped Him. Luke's gospel record tells of shepherds keeping watch over their flock in the field at night. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them (Lk.2:9). An angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lk.2:10-11). Subsequently, there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased (Lk.2:13-14). All of these expressions of praise and adoration find theIr focus in the birth of a Child (Mt.2:9). The cause for such approbation and applause is a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger (Lk.2:23). This fount of exultation was prophesied in the Old Testament by Isaiah when he wrote centuries before the time of Christ, Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given (Isa.9:6).
In days gone by it seemed like our well-intentioned brethren were bent on taking Christ out of Christmas. Put up a tree in your home if you like and enjoy the exchange of gifts, but whatever you do don’t call attention to the birth of Jesus. To the contrary, I have come to affirm that that which puts the merry in Christmas is the arrival of Jesus - - the birth of our dear Savior. The “lights” we all relish are but a re-enactment of that which happened two-thousand years ago in a quaint village in Palestine. The "gifts" we give and receive are but a reminder of the journey of the Magi who traveled far to worship a baby in a manger. THE BIRTH that happened long ago in that little town of Bethlehem forever changed our world and it needs to be celebrated, perhaps now more than ever!
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ