From an email I sent
As the festive season draws nigh, we remember that we are among those who have eternally benefitted from the events that the season actually commemorates. In any way you celebrate it (with or without “pagan” influences), the fact is that, as Christians, we relate to Christmas in a very, very different way than the rest of the world.
For us, Christmas goes beyond blinking trees, mince pies, carols and turkeys. It’s more than just time off from work (for those who get it) or an opportunity to flood inboxes and mailboxes with inoffensive, politically-correct “Seasons Greetings” cards. It’s more than plunging ourselves and future generations further into debt trying to translate our relationships into consumer goods.
Nope. For us who have been redeemed by the blood of the Incarnate God, this season should be no different than any other season of the year. We remember what God has done for us in Christ. We remember what a breathtaking sight it is to read that the eternal God laid as a helpless newborn baby in a place so unhygienic we wouldn’t let our pets – let alone our children – spend the night. We remember the tremendous words of Paul, who tells us that Christ “…made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7b-8).
But is that all? Is Christianity no more than a pious memory exercise? Μη γένοιτο! to quote Paul. There’s no gentle translation of that, so I’ll go with the ESV: By no means! No way. Remembering “the reason for the season” leads us to a renewal of our worship and, maybe, repentance for how lightly and even apathetically we often take what God has done for us. Or how we often take it for granted. Or look for something else to substitute the supreme joy and delight that it once brought us. Hmm. Let’s leave that there.
Worship of God, then. Should we spend all December singing like plump Renaissance cherubs, eyes upturned in their sockets as if we’re being strangled by sheer rapture? Well, I hope that our worship does not consist only of singing. I hope our understanding of worship is not restricted only to musical expressions.
We worship our Redeemer God with our whole being. Think of an OT sacrifice. It’s where the term “holocaust” came to us. Everything on the sacrifical altar is burned up, consumed and offered up to God.
Same with us. When we worship God, it should involve every aspect of “us”. And that means that worship extends beyond a church gathering, past the end of that last hymn and well into the “non-spiritual” parts of our lives.
And it’s beautiful.
So, this season presents us with an opportunity to renew our worship and renew ourselves in worship. But it also offers an opportunity to present those who do not know Christ with the message of the gospel. Anecdotal experience suggests that people reflect more on religious matters this time of the year. Maybe it’s someone wondering what this whole “western” Christmas business is. Maybe it’s the overtly materialistic atmosphere that drives people to ponder the true meaning of Christmas.
Opportunities to communicate the gospel can abound. Shouldn’t we be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15)?
With that in mind, let me present you with two excellent (and free) audio resouces. What can I say? We listen faster than we read.
First, J.I. Packer on the Attributes of God. Clear and well-rounded with a good emphasis on apologetics.
Second, Don Carson’s famous 2009 seminar “The God who is there”. I’m still going through this one, but so far it’s profound. This is actually a great resource for either new Christians or non-believers who’d like to understand what the Christian faith is all about. I’m particularly enjoying how Dr Carson looks at the Bible from the lens of Christianity.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas. May the paraphernalia not distract us.