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Christmas is About Family?

December 1, 2015

My wife and I were watching a Christmas movie the other night and, at a key point in the story, one of the characters says “Christmas is about family!” in an effort to encourage another to set aside a real grievance and reconcile with his brother.  It was planned to be the most heartwarming moment of a heartwarming story and I suppose it was.

Of course, after several decades of life in evangelicalism, my first response was to cringe at that line; to want to explain to anyone who would listen that Christmas is about Jesus, the Son of God, coming as a helpless babe to save an even more helpless world.  Never mind that, if I actually had said that to someone who was gushing over their family Christmas, I would not only be seen as rude, I’d be expressing that rudeness in a way that would drive people away from our faith not toward it.

The fact is that there are two separate Christmas stories out there.  There is the story of the Nativity and our contemporary cultural Christmas. These two stories have never been the same thing, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.   While we assuredly want to keep the Nativity story primary in our hearts, to stand beside the cultural Christmas with our arms folded across our chests and scowls on our faces will have both social and evangelistic negative consequences.

We engage in a host of cultural celebrations without worry that they aren’t Christian enough, or Christian at all.  For example, at this time both pro and college football are moving toward their playoffs and Christian sports fans are just as caught up in the drama as anyone else.  Our conversations at the office or in neighborhood bond us together with people who don’t share our faith.

Even if the cultural Christmas celebrations don’t exhibit or promote Christian themes, Christians should still be free to participate in them as a part of life in this world. We shouldn’t feel it necessary to baptize everything we do as “Christian,” not even Christmas!

In our churches we can focus on the real meaning of Christmas.  But then, as we go out into the world, we are set free to live among our neighbors with the Holy Spirit as our guide, not a lot of rules on if and how we should participate in the cultural celebration of the holiday.   We can even, as I just did, call it “the holiday” without fear.

Now is the time for a special Christmas grace to our fellow believers.  Do they want to play Santa with their children?   Give extravagant gifts to one another?  Massive feasting?  Alcohol?  Office parties? Silly Christmas songs and movies?  Over-the-top decorations?  Let them.   And maybe we should even smile when someone says Christmas is about family.

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From → Christianity

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