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The Real Christmas

December 15, 2015

I’ve talked before about how there are two versions of Christmas out there and we have to accept, with joy even, that this is so.  There is the cultural Christmas; the shopping, the decorations, the gift-giving, the parties, the family get-togethers etc. that seem to be more Santa-filled than Jesus-filled.  And there is also the church Christmas; the meditation on the baby born in Bethlehem and the awe of God becoming man.

As I’ve said, we evangelicals do ourselves, and our cause, great harm when we stand apart frowning at the cultural Christmas as if they have stolen something from us.  When we treat cultural Christmas, and those who celebrate it, as the enemy we all but slam the door on their ever receiving our version.  I don’t suppose a lot of us have heard someone say “Thanks for telling me how evil and stupid I am!  Please show me how to do it right.”

But there is another group out there, a bigger group than you might think, although I suspect we’ve all spent at least one Christmas in the group.

We have, in either Christmas, generally concluded that Christmas is for happy people.  In the cultural version it is for those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around a fireplace with stockings hanging; for healthy and happy people; people who laugh easily; who live in suburban family bliss. They watch Christmas movies curled up on the couch as a family drinking hot cocoa together. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

For the church Christmas we pretty much insist on happy celebration too.  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”  Upbeat sermons and music are required.    We have church Christmas parties, or if we are fussy about such things, Happy Birthday Jesus parties.

Forgive me for saying this but I think this is backward.  Christmas may be for everyone but it is particularly for those who need a rescue.  You might even say that Jesus came only for those who need a rescue.  Jesus was born as a baby to know pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him.  His first recorded worshipers were poor shepherds beaten down by a hard life.

Jesus came for those who were far from happy.  He came for families who are staring at the empty place of a lost loved one as they sit down to dinner.  He came for those wracked with disease and who fear that this may be their last Christmas.  He came for those whose marriages have blown apart.  He came for parents heartbroken about their children’s life choices and children who feel the weight of their parent’s disapproval.  He came for the lonely; for those who crave just one more drink; for those who have been looking for love in all the wrong places; for those with failed dreams and broken hearts.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for those who need it. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a world drowning in hopelessness.  In the greatest of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy.

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From → Christianity

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