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Christmas – Cancel or Celebrate?

Christmas – Cancel or Celebrate?

Ever felt like cancelling Christmas?

I mean cast your eye around your local shopping mall. Each year, “Christmas” seems to get further and further away from what that first Christmas is all about. No good complaining about it. It is what it is. And on the inside, where we live … I’m not sure if you’ve noticed … it’s becoming more and more difficult to celebrate the awesome meaning of Christmas. So … why not cancel it altogether this year?

Perhaps the reason it’s becoming more difficult to celebrate Christmas in a powerfully moving way, is that our idealised, child-view of Christmas (a happy, exciting time all about presents and the food that mum used to cook and decorations and the smell of a real Christmas tree) is being morphed each year by society’s stylised reinterpretation of Christmas.

It seems that we’ve learned to do, sing, say, smell and eat a whole bunch of things that bear little or no resemblance to that first Christmas.

 

The Christmas Reality

Mary – pregnant out of wedlock (huuuuuge scandal!!) – and her faithful betrothed Joseph, journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Traditionally we have her riding on a donkey, but there’s no mention of that in the Bible.

Whether she walked or rode or (most likely) travelled as part of a caravan for safety, the girl was almost full term. This was a hard, rocky road that they travelled together for a week or more. Uncomfortable. Inconvenient. Even dangerous since Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea.

And then finally … finally they arrive, just to discover that the Sheraton lost the reservation that their travel agent was supposed to have made, and the only place they can find a “room” is in a stable out back.

We city slickers (of which I am one) all to easily forget the stark realities of a stable (trained as we are to see the Nativity through the prism of a children’s pantomime). This isn’t the pantomime version here. The stench of the animals, their urine and their excrement was overpowering. And that manger thing that we sing Christmas carols about was a feed trough, no doubt with animal saliva – years of it – caked on the sides.

Is this the place that any woman would choose to give birth to her child, let alone to the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World?

 

Then and Now – Chalk and Cheese

The glitzier Christmas becomes, it seems to me the harder it is to celebrate it with joy and passion in our hearts. The more lavish the decorations in the mall, the Christmas pantomimes at our churches and the gifts that we give have become, the further we’ve drifted from that draughty, smelly stable in which the Saviour of the world – my Saviour, your Saviour – chose to make His ignominious entrance.

As we consider wistfully our own rocky road towards Christmas each year, perhaps with the failures and the disappointments of the year outweighing the triumphs and the joys, maybe the mistake that we make is in comparing our reality to the razzamatazz thingy that Christmas has become … and drawing the conclusion that whatever life we’re living, whatever Christmas we’re going to be celebrating, it just doesn’t match up to what Christmas should be. 

Is that why it’s becoming a little harder each year to celebrate Christmas??

 

An Alternative Christmas

So if the stylised Christmas we’ve become accustomed to ain’t doing it for us any more, is there an alternative Christmas we can celebrate?

I think there is. It’s the version of Christmas that has the Son of God journeying a rocky road – our rocky road – bumping His way in His mother’s womb towards His first, uncomfortable Christmas. It’s the Christmas that has the Messiah slipping quietly into the world as a bog ordinary person, in a bog ordinary place. The sort of place that you and I – if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually – find ourselves in from time to time. Smelly, uncomfortable … on the fringes of the mainstream.

It seems to me that the only Christmas worth celebrating in our hearts each year is the Christmas that speaks of our Saviour coming to us on our oft-times ignominious, insignificant, unnoticed, unrewarded little journey … 

Because the thing that that Christmas tells us, is that He truly understands our journey. Not just because He’s God … but because He’s travelled the road ahead of us. That same rocky road.

And I have to tell you, in my heart – that’s worth celebrating. Quietly. Simply. It’s the only version of Christmas that floods my heart with joy.

But then … I think that’s the way it was always meant to be.

 

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29 Comments

  1. Angeline

    it’s pretty tragic isn’t it. May the Lord give you the wisdom to be the peacemaker and the one that loves the unlovable, unconditionally.

    Yours in Christ
    Berni

  2. Christmas, I would like to share my thoughts on the subject.
    3 years ago I made a huge change to how I would share and love Christmas time. I use to look forward to the day, being part of a family of 30. It was wonderful, my parents, 4 brothers and 3 sisters and it grew to where there were new partners and later on children and more children were introduced. My siblings went to church every Sunday with Mum and Dad growing up.

    But as my family grew Christmas actually became less fun and became progressively shallow and difficult times for us. I stopped going to Mass and did so for 17 years. The pressures of what people were expected to be given at Christmas time, quite commercialised to the point of where it was as if Christmas was only a fairy tale and turned into a rude reality. Hardly anyone in my family goes to church these days and some don’t care to follow in faith.

    It became a touchy subject within my own family in later years when spoken about planning Christmas day because of certain influences from different family groups and thoughts on how Christmas day was going to be.

    I felt like we had lost the true meaning of Christmas with this conflict of interest and of what it was all about.
    I didn’t want to lose that big family, love of family, fun, yahoo time but it was disfunctional and I needed to face reality. I wanted to keep ‘my own little family Christmas alive’ so we decided that from now on, and is has been for the last 3 years, to share Christmas with 3 people for that day, my husband, my son and I.

    As a kid it was natural to look forward to the food and toys and excitement but as we have got older we think it is still great but more important keeping it real for the reason for Christmas. I am a spiritual person and I choose to go to Mass regularly. I love my family, my parents and brothers and sisters and their children, but with all the busy lifestyles and expectations that we have, a real disconnection amongst us has occured. The family that I grew up with, some only bother to see the other person once a year, Christmas day. And now sadly, I don’t see them at all. We live close enough to drive and visit but don’t. One brother and his family we have visited on numerous occasions but they have only visited us once in 16 years. I have been married for 20 of those 16 years. They loves us when they see us but they don’t choose to visit any other time, apart from Christmas day?? One other sister who was considered very close and is my childs God Mother who has not visited in 10 years, but visits all the family on Christmas day. My son you could say doesn’t know his god Mother?? We see 2 brothers and 1 sister and their families on occasion during the year. But the bigger the family seems to get, the less real relationships we have.

    The competition and distance sets in and the real message has been lost……

    For Christmas we go somewhere special as our own little family and reflect on the importance of what we have, while we have it, the support we give each other that is unconditional.
    Our brothers and sisters coming along for one day to say hi and to celebrate Christ in Christmas well…. it doesn’t do it for us under this arrangement anymore and it isn’t how we wish to celebrate.

    Christmas is celebrating Christ and he is about unity, love, sharing, commitment and being part of your life.

    My Christmas day could continue to be a sad story, but to keep it meaningful for us, we (3 of us) spend Christmas day together. I pray that our bigger family will one day want to seek unity…more than just one day to give. Inviting Christ into our lives every day can’t compete with how much money we have, fair weather friends or 30 family members pretending to be part of your life.

    We could continue going along with the flow each year but sometimes we need to think about it, do we accept it or draw a line in the sand. I want more from my family and hope and pray that what we have done will help make a change…….

    God has said ‘Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can, And wisdom to know the difference’. I pray for that change….

  3. I agree…Jesus is the reason for the season and yet I have found that when we have Jesus in our hearts we can fully celebrate Him at Christmas redeeming even the twisted parts of it to teach and proclaim Jesus!

    For example, in my family we think about….
    The tree…behind all the glitz and glimmer is the rough wood that Jesus hung on…
    The candy cane… a shepherd’s crook and a J for Jesus and red and white symbolising what his blood did for us.
    The lights that remind us Jesus is the light of the world…
    Santa.. a saint who made a difference in others lives…
    The gifts… reminding us of the amazing gift God gave us in Jesus which is the only gift that we continue to unwrap for the rest of our lives… and the gifts are a way to teach our children to give and think of others.
    The Christmas carols so rich with Christian truth being sung and proclaimed in the shops.. we join in and pray that God will open non believer’s eyes and ears to hear the truth as they shop.

    I LOVE Christmas and I believe Christians can use it to teach their children and others some of the great messages of our Christian faith. Let’s redeem it and enjoy our wonderful faith and Saviour. Although Mary and Joseph and the shepherds
    didn’t fully realise what was going on the day Jesus was born, we do and being on the other side of it let’s CELEBRATE and use it to proclaim Jesus to Western society lost in empty materialism! JOY to the world the Saviour has come!

  4. We spent 20 years in India, and were a bit nearer celebrating Christmas with some understanding, And so we have much to be thankful for, and our family; it doesn’t really matter when we remember, apart from the fact that we can remember it every day and be thankful for ALL God has done for us, We may never fully appreciate that, but can keep His Word in our hearts and minds, and keep close to Him, Culture here has spoiled the marvel and majesty, but we have to put that aside and love and worship Him. That sounds smug, but not meant that way.

  5. thanks Berni, it is encouraging to remember that God works through the uncomfortable times and the tough journeys, those moments where we wonder ‘how did I get here and what will become of it?’

    and I agree Christmas is still worth celebrating. I’m truly amazed that for all Australia’s secularity, I still hear Christmas carols that are about worshipping Jesus in my local shopping centres – an area better known for mosques than churches! I celebrate that some of the real stuff of Christmas might prompt a question or stir the hearts of those who don’t know Jesus yet 🙂

  6. We know all the wrongs things so…well. All the fighting and nit picking, we ALL know the wrong things about Christmas. Let’s just celebrate Jesus! If we don’t we lose a lovely chance to tell and

    share what our God has done, to share the hope that lives in us.
    Do it in remembrance of the love the Father shares towards His children. It still is and for me, always will be, CHRISTmas

  7. I love Christmas. Always have. It is the best time of year, despite the hurdy gurdy pace . Celebrating the birth of Jesus with my family has been the pinicle of the “festive season”.

    But all is not well in 2012. Hollywood has added so much “fiction” to the story that we do not know what is true anymore.
    1. A pregnant Mary on a donkey? Got that one right Berni!
    2. Born in a dirty cave/stable? Sorry – cannot go for that one anymore. not in Luke’s list. Perhaps they stayed with someone who made mangers for a living.
    3. Shepherds . No beards in the nativity scene. They were teenage boys, who got a buzz from an angel. They ran to town, found ……..Mary, Joseph and a baby. Did Luke leave out all the animals? OK . Scrap AWAY IN A MANGER. From the song list.
    4. HARK THE HERALD ANGELS …..SING? My bible says. The angel spoke, then a vast host of heavenly hosts ( literally an army ) showed up. No singing , unless it was that repetitive chanting they do on the TV. When they parade up and down at drill time. . Don’t think so. Just a short message and back to heaven again.
    5. Silent night? Hardly. the shepherds ran all over town telling everyone Lk 2:18.
    6. 3 wise men. Wrong again. 3 gifts, but no mention of how many wise men.
    7. A star?We all know stars do not move across the sky. Stop , then backtrack to another location . Best guess is a supernova.

    If you’ve read this far, YES , I’m being flippant.

    The point is, We celebrate Christmas despite all the errors, hype, and glitz because IT DID HAPPEN, so let’s show the rest of the world that It is the greatest time to be had, because Jesus is alive.

    Nice ending , Berni. Have a happy ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS!

  8. Since being born again, my Christmas celebrations have become quieter, it helps that I no longer have young children and my grandkids are also older. I guess I celebrate it on the 25th because the Church does. As for people coming to church only at Christmas and Easter, at least they are there and that gives us hope of a few more saved souls. Christmas is what we make it, and we can spend as little or as much as we decide. I prefer to support Baptist Aid or Prison ministries/Christmas trees etc. My own little personal touch is to send cards that have Christmas greetings with a Jesus theme, and not xmas/holiday season, especially to non christian family and friends.

  9. The fact of the matter is that no really knows the exact date of Christ’s birth.
    Scholars have dated the year anywhere between 3 BC and 6AD.
    The actual Month they think is September.
    Nevertheless, Are we going to dismiss the occasion because the world is celebrating it purely on the commercial aspect of it.
    We know better.
    Should we not celebrate Jesus’ birth simply because we don’t know the exact date?
    December was likely chosen so the Catholic Church could compete with rival pagan rituals held at that time of year and because of its closeness with the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a traditional time of celebration among many ancient cultures.
    Many cultures have included part of their natural habitat to remind them of the birth of their Lord and Saviour. (Christmas trees, Holly, Candy cane etc.)–Check it out on Google)
    Granted, why December 25, why not March 12, (tounge in cheek)
    The idea of gift giving was taken from the Magi, who gave Jesus Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense. Albeit, these were symbolic. Honouring a King, Divinity and human suffering.
    We as christians are merely reminding the rest of the world on a particular day, that Jesus Christ, creator of Heaven and earth, was born as a human being into this world to fulfill the redemption of humanity to himself.
    And as it was a gift to humanity, we are just reminding ourselves and the world, of the occasion of gift giving in a celebration of the day.
    And if we are going to celebrate the day, what better way than to invite our family and closest friends to the festivity.
    One major point to remember. Giving of gifts is fine, but don’t leave out or forget the Gift giver.
    God himself.

    • Fred – preach it brother! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing that balanced understanding.

  10. All good comments. Over the past 5 yrs or so I have not been looking forward to the build up to CHRISTmas especially singing the carols,(same ol’ same ol’). Even some being unscriptural. Then getting to the hype and expectation of the BIG day. I’m moving to the idea maybe of using the time to just reflect on the gift of Jesus that our Father has given and all that goes with that. If we can give thanks for that, that would as good a time as any. Why isn’t the unsaved world (workmates etc)as nice as they are at CHRISTmas all year round,SAD.
    On my cards to unbelievers I write. ” May the Spirit of God reveal the Saving Power and Grace of Jesus to you this CHRISTmas.” Even the past few years I’ve been winding that down. It seems all to be soo oppressing and depressingly pointless.
    But quietly I dooo loove the food. Don’t tell anyone 😉
    Love your ministry Berni.
    God bless 😉

    • Yah I get ya Tony. I enjoy the food too. To all those who are negative about Christmas celebrations remember that the Old Testament sets out a pretty full festival and celebration agenda for the year, including new moon and harvest festivals. Since time immemorial it seems that God’s people have appropriated ‘pagan’ festival times to celebrate their God!

      Pls don’t shoot the messenger – it’s in the Bible.

      • Christmas has become a holiday to advertise goods rather than an occasion to remember Jesus. “The Son of Man came….to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many” (Mark 10:45) Jesus spoke these words obviously not on his birthday but on the night before he died. On that evening, he instituted a simple ceremony to memorialize his death. Yet, why would Jesus want his followers to remember his death rather than his birth? Because Jesus’ ransom sacrifice gives obedient humans the opportunity to receive everlasting life. “The wages sin pays is death,” says the Bible, “but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Thus,each year,on the anniversary of his death, Jesus’ followers remember Jesus Christ, not as a helpless infant, but as “the Saviour of the World.” John 4:42.

      • Deborah, I agree in part. Obviously His death and resurrection are powerfully important. But so is the helpless infant in the manger, because He reveals God to us. he reveals a God who loves us so much that He is prepared to become vulnerable … A helpless Infant in a manger. I’m not sure that we can or should separate the Incarnation from the Passion, despite what society has done in appropriating and redefining Christmas for its own ends. 🙂

      • I think as some of you, however, I blame parents and up brining on the kids these days choosing to celebrate Christmas as, “hey I got this”. Or the “was Santa good to you?”… People have wondered away from the church due to scandals and lies. And it’s unfortunate that the human race thrives on drama and darkness. If parents and families became parents and families again, things could still change back to the way the birth of Christ should be celebrated. Throughout the year, Quiet, yet glorious. A family united in celebration. Ps Santa was not invented by coke. Lol… Just the visual of him was.

  11. All good. So true. So commercial. So far from reality. Whilst it can be a lovely time with family and friends there is so much that is crass that must grieve Him. How I thank God that in His grace and mercy He has chosen me and how I am reminded I am to earnestly seek to live for Him and that others may see Him in me (amazing!)

  12. have been challenged by some of your comments, thanks for bringing into context what Mary may have felt, how she could have been seen by her contemporaries, having to give birth to a baby, in a shed without the support of her family

  13. Hi Berni,
    I have to say that I absolutely share your feelings about Christmas…
    Let’s see…
    1.To say that Jesus was born on December 25th is a lie
    2.Trees, wreaths, holly, mistletoe and the like are strictly forbidden as pagan and heathen!
    3. Santa and reindeers? is a product a marketing campaign by Coca-Cola in the 30s.
    4.The Lord never spoke of commemorating his birth but rather commanded us to remember the sacrifice of His suffering and death, which purchased our salvation.

    Once a Jewish lady said to me…, I don’t believe in Christmas..because
    “Everyday we live since the day we found Christ is Christmas”
    so if everyday is Christmas, then what’s so special about Christmas?

    Christmas trees? chocolates? gifts? shopping? family dinners? parties?

    1 John 2:15-17
    Do Not Love the World

    15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

    Instead Focus on What Jesus promised us…

    John 14:2-3
    2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

  14. Dec 25th is NOT the date Christ was born, Dec 25th is a pagan festival to false gods NOT to the one true GOD,I searched online and found quite a lot about it and as a result my husband and I do NOT celebrate Dec 25th anymore here is just one link i found and I hope you do read what is said therehttp://www.hope-of-israel.org/cmas1.htm You may have to copy and paste the link into your browser.
    Cancel Dec 25th,refuse to call it christmas anymore

  15. To me, the word”christmas” is a dirty word. I wish I could escape all the traditional
    fanfare that the season brings along with it.As I understand the Holy Scriptures,no
    mention is made of celebrating an unknown birthday. The culture we’ve grown up in
    draws attention to Self, rather than the Lord Jesus

    • I totally agree!! I get called Scrooge and baa humbug because I don’t like or want to celebrate Christmas. It is pagan. Lovely to see all your comments. Ellie x

  16. Christmas should NOT be celebrated by believers at all it is a PAGAN celebration of NIMROD’S birthday NOT Yeshua – Christmas and Easter bring the “church” into disrepute – Easter especially seeks to draw us away from our Hebraic Jewish roots

    • I couldn’t disagree more. When we remember the birth and death of Jesus seems to me to be far less important than the fact that we remember and celebrate them.

  17. Yes we have had a really hard year this year and it lingers with my husband not having work yet the Lord still provides but we still have bills growing on our fridge. Yes we are on that bumpy road

    • Bev may you rejoice in the knowledge that The Lord is on that road with you.

  18. Thanks love it. My question, where did we get Dec 25 for Christ’s birth????

    • Nathan the one thing we know us that Jesus wasn’t born in December, as shepherds would not have been tending their flocks by night in the dead of winter. Christ-mass was first a Roman Catholic tradition it seems they appropriated a Roman harvest festival as the time to celebrate a mass commemorating the birth of Christ. And that ate has stick a bit like celebrating Queen’s Birthday in July when it’s not her birthday.

  19. Yes – With all the gloss and shiny things that are part of Christmas it definitely is not like the original Christmas.

    BUT What a great opportunity to share the story of Christ and His coming with those who do not normally darken a Church door. Often Christmas day will see people in Church who do not attend at any other time of the year. Take the bright gloss and shiny lights, the Christmas music as an opening to share the truth with someone who may not hear in any other way.

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