'Tis the season to be melancholy. Haven't you heard? Christmas is under attack! Christians all across America are being persecuted! You thought Nero was bad? Our most sacred of days is being secularized and no one seems to be doing anything to stop it!
Is this a foreshadowing of the coming Great Tribulation? Are we about to see the fulfillment of Revelation 13:17? Will we wake up one morning and discover that we cannot buy Christmas presents for our loved ones unless our hands or foreheads bear the mark of the Beast? Surely we must be living in the End Times!
Okay, back to reality...
Yes, I believe there are assaults on the tradition of Christmas, just as surely as the world rails against anything associated with Christ and his church. But given the state of our secular, hedonistic culture, it really isn't all that surprising when some people are offended when you wish them a "Merry Christmas."
It goes both ways, however. Many Christians are just as offended when they are greeted with the words "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." "How dare you take Christ out of Christmas!" they shout, as they claw, punch and bite their way through a gaggle of shoppers for the last Xbox 360 on the shelf so that they and their spoiled children can properly celebrate the Savior's birth.
Don't get me wrong. Despite the fact that, after all this time, I still have not received a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, I love Christmas. It is a time set aside for fellowship with friends and family. It is also the time of year during which we focus on the birth of Jesus Christ. While that does make Christmas a significant holiday, there isn't anything especially holy about it.
Debate continues even within Christian circles about the origins of Christmas. "Its roots go back to the pagan rituals of ancient Rome," some will argue. "No," others reply. "Christmas is a distinctly Christian celebration and should be embraced." Whatever your particular view may be, the fact remains that Christmas is a man-made holiday.
Romans 14:5 says, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." That is not to say that traditions aren't important or that churches shouldn't have special days on their calendars. But considering that the only celebration in remembrance of Christ that is called for in scripture is the Lord's Supper, can we really justify getting worked up simply because we don't see the word "Christmas" in a store display?
My point is that many of us have a tendency to overreact when we see things we don't like. That is especially true at Christmastime. We're geared up for a fight, and when we hear the jingle bells ring we come out swinging.
Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, once noted in a sermon that the weapons of the believer are "prayer and the proclamation of the Word." Those are the weapons we should be using. "As soon as we lay down the two weapons given by our Commander," Begg continued, "we will be forced to take up the weapons that are present in our culture. And so we become just another marching special interest group..."
The result is a boycott here and a lawsuit there in the hope that an unbelieving world will relent and allow us to express our Christian beliefs. Of course, what usually happens is that we end up looking every bit as shallow and selfish as the very ones we believe are out to get us. We forget to exhibit Christ's love in a fallen world.
Is that how we want to be seen? Is that what we are called to do? Is our dedication to the defense of the gospel of Christ defined by how ferociously we defend a particular holiday? Will our petty complaints about society's disregard for the "true meaning" of Christmas help us reach lost souls?
This Christmas, may we be less offended by the "secularization" of a man-made holiday and be more focused on living as examples of the One whose birth we're celebrating. The world doesn't need Christmas; what it does need is Christ.