Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Challenge for Jesus' Followers

How does a follower of Jesus celebrate the birth of Christ amidst the onslaught of a cultural Christmas?

This time of year offers the greatest challenge for followers of Jesus to remain or become more faithful. As our culture kicks into Christmas high gear, Jesus followers are challenged to step back and slow it down.

Over the years an unease with Christmas has grown in me. As our society places greater and greater emphasis on buying, giving gifts and getting gifts, we’ve moved farther away from anything to do with the birth of Jesus. The pressure to support the economy, purchase more, do more seemingly escalates each year.

So this year I am trying to approach the cultural Christmas as an outside observer. My primary observation is that we approach Santa as a god. Listen to the language used around Santa. It is religious language. In November, Macy’s Department Store took out a two page advertisement in the Boston Globe exhorting us to “believe” in Santa. Stories and movies about Santa hinge on people believing. Belief is even encouraged by adults. Santa has taken on mythical and mystical characteristics.

In a culture that centers around consumerism Santa is a perfect god. What do you do with Santa? You ask for gifts. What does Santa do for us? Santa brings us things. If you do not believe Santa is a god, try saying that Santa is not real in church. Then step back and prepare for the backlash.

I do not begrudge our culture it’s holiday. I think there are many good things about it. But I do not wish to confuse the cultural celebration with the birth of Jesus.

I invite you to step back from Santa and our cultural Christmas. Ask yourself what is a suitable way to celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. Feel free to share your ideas. Find those who will join you.

Perhaps these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer will help:

Who will celebrate Christmas correctly?

Whoever finally lays down

all power, all honor,

all reputation, all vanity,

all arrogance, all individualism

beside the manger.

Grace & peace,


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