About two weeks ago it started happening. First one, then another, then a flood. Article after article, listicle after listicle, all written to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Christian leaders, click-baitey bloggers, and Facebook aficionados all lamenting the paganization of the Christmas season.
Seven Scriptures to Read at Christmas
Five Gifts that Remind Your Kids about The Reason for the Season
10 Ways to Share the Good News of Jesus with Your Pagan, Santa-Worshipping, Heathen Neighbors
WHY DO PEOPLE SAY XMAS INSTEAD OF CHRISTMAS!!!!!!! DONT THEY KNOW THATS SATANIC? THEYRE TAKING CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS!!!!!!
And on and on. And, with the exception of the offensive wording in the third and the linguistic ignorance of the fourth (X is the Greek letter chi, the first letter in Christ. It’s shorthand, not satanism. Oh, but all caps IS satanic: seriously, quit it), these would probably all be great, helpful articles.
But I think there’s still more to be said. Because keeping Christ in Christmas is about much more than a token reading from Luke before the wrapping paper starts to fly. It’s more than attempting to rein in your kids’ unbridled consumerism. It’s more than Jesus-juking your neighbors. And it sure isn’t flying off the handle when a clerk wishes you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
No. Keeping Christ in Christmas is about much more than these things.
The best way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live like he did.
Hear me out on this. The Incarnation, celebrated at Christmas, is the primary miracle of the Christian faith. The miracle of Creation belongs to everyone. The miracle of the Exodus belongs to Israel. And while, as created beings and as those who have been grafted into Israel, Christians share in those miracles, the Incarnation is where Christianity as a new reality begins.
Creation provides the whole world with its form and its ideal state.
The Exodus provides Israel with its nationhood and its legal system.
The Incarnation gives Christianity its inauguration, its savior, and its marching orders.
By becoming human, Jesus modeled the kingdom values he would later preach. When Jesus preached that the meek will inherit the earth, it’s hard to imagine more meekness than that required for the Creator of all things to be born as a weak and helpless baby. When Jesus declares that greatness is visible only in humble service, it’s hard not to think about Paul’s words in Philippians describing the reality behind Jesus’ birth: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And when Jesus calls his disciples to radical self-sacrifice, that too has its echoes in the Incarnation: being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Do you want to keep Christ in Christmas, Christian? Let me suggest three ways:
1. Be meek
Don’t look at Christmas as your holiday. Don’t try to take it back. And, for heaven’s sake, quit correcting the “Happy Holidays” you receive with a harumph and a loud “Merry Christmas!” Instead, let your neighbors enjoy their Santa balloons. Post cheerful things on social media. Attend the holiday party your neighbors are throwing even if – *gasp* -there’s alcohol in the punch. Letting the light of the gospel shine through your life and your words at Christmas doesn’t require you being a wet blanket smothering other people’s holiday fires. Trust God to work through your meekness and you may find more openness when you start talking about the true reason for the season.
2. Be humble
Recognize that your “Christian” traditions at the holiday aren’t the “right” way to celebrate. This may come as a shock to some, but Jesus’ Christmas tree didn’t have an angel on top of it. Santa isn’t an intentional word-jumble for Satan. Don’t confuse your traditions with the gospel. The gospel is incredibly adaptive, not in its message which is constant, but in its forms of celebration. That’s as true at Christmas as at any other time. Decide ahead of time that you won’t be offended this Christmas season, because being offended is often just a mask for wounded pride. Let others have their traditions even as you enjoy yours. Don’t let pride stand in the way of a genuine, “Merry Christmas to all!” Instead, let humility flavor your declaration of Christ in Christmas.
3. Be self-sacrificing
Perhaps more than any other, this last example from the Incarnation is the most important: be willing to die to yourself. Jesus didn’t stay “sweet baby Jesus” forever. He grew up, was beaten, and died on a cross. And if that sounds like bad news, don’t forget what happened next: he rose again! And that’s the gospel – that Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, died the painful death we should have died, and rises again, inviting us to join him by faith. Anyone who truly believes that glorious truth will have no trouble setting aside their family traditions to invite an immigrant neighbor in on Christmas morning. Someone who has died with Christ is free to live without a turkey dinner to enjoy serving at the soup kitchen Christmas Day. The person who has already committed themselves to self-denial will gladly go to church and declare the supremacy of God in all things even if Christmas is on a Sunday this year. News of a self-sacrificing Savior is better received from a self-sacrificing neighbor than a self-righteous Christmas snob.
Want to keep Christ in Christmas this year? Let Christ shine through how you live.