SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:6 (TM)
For a child has been born - for us! the gift of a son - for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.
STORY: by Chuck Swindoll
Take the year 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. Nobody then cared about babies. But the world was overlooking some terribly significant births.
For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England's finest statesman. That same year, Alfred Tennyson was born to an obscure minister and his wife. The child would one day greatly affect the literary world in a marked manner. On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And not far away in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe began his eventful, albeit tragic, life. It was also in that same year that a physician named Darwin and his wife named their child Charles Robert. And that same year produced the cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby's name? Abraham Lincoln.
If there had been news broadcasts at that time, I'm certain these words would have been heard: "The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today." But history was actually being shaped in the cradles of England and America. Similarly, everyone thought taxation was the big news--when Jesus was born. But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all: the birth of the Savior.
It might be viewed as heretical, but I don’t get bent out of shape over the issues of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays or Jesus is the reason for the season or keeping Christ in Christmas. I just don’t and let me try to explain why.
First of all, the celebration of the birth of Jesus just wasn’t important to the early church. Scripturally it is only mentioned in 2 of the 4 Gospels and not at all in any of the New Testament letters. The early church observed the weeks before Christmas as a time of prayer, fasting, alms giving, Bible study and penteance. Their focus was on Calvary and the death and resurrection of Christ … nothing else mattered. So if we really want to center our attention on Christ during this season we would follow their example.
It wasn’t until these early believers began to incorborate the various pagan elements of the society in which they lived did the church begin to widen the scope of their observance to include much of what we presently include in our Advent journey towards Christmas.
Christmas is only 12-days (December 25 to January 6). The period that we call Christmas includes four weeks of Advent, 12-days of Christmas, the New Year celebration and the Day of Epiphany, January 6th. It includes more than just Christmas so the Happy Holidays greeting is okay with me.
Keeping Christ in Christmas to some extent is/was a response to stores that used the Xmas abbrevation. This doesn’t disturb me either because the Greek X is Chi which means Christ and the X is one of the oldest and lasting symbols for Christ.
And now for the last phrase, Jesus is the reason for the season. I would much prefer the simple, Jesus Is The Reason … period. Jesus is the reason for life, hope, possibility and not just one season out of 12 months. We parade our Christian pride once a year. We declare our commitment once a year. We make a big deal once a year. We ignore our witness to the truth of Christ for the other 11-months.
Heretical? Maybe. A call to a deeper relationship with Christ? Always. A desire to make our celebration continuous? By all means, YES! May the spirit of Christ and Christmas live in us 365 days a year and not just for a few weeks.
Bring us and our world back into focus. Help us to set Christ-centered priorities. May the spirit of the season live in us for 365 days. Bring us back into focus.