Friday, December 21, 2012

Reason for the Season?

Nativity Scene Zilina
Jesus is the reason for the Season.  I have to admit it; I have always hated that phrase.  I grew up with some wonderful Christian people who believed in celebrating Christmas as a strictly religious holiday. I love them dearly, and I know that they wanted nothing more than to see me become a strong Christian woman.  Still, when I was a child, I always felt like they used the "reason for the season" as a club.  "You're having a good time with those Christmas toys?  Great!  But Jesus is the reason for the season!"  Year after year, I felt a sense of guilt that I didn't think about Baby Jesus often enough during the Christmas season.  About the time I'd start having fun, I'd feel the need to pull out the Bible and read Luke 1-2 again, not because I wanted to, but because I felt shamed into it.  

As an adult, I have many fine Christian friends who want nothing more than to love Jesus well, just like I do.  However, sometimes we sound less than loving when we become angry at something as silly as the words people use.  The atheists decide the tree at the mall should be called a holiday tree because they are offended by the word Christmas. When management capitulates, we decide to boycott the store and plaster "keep Christ in Christmas" all over the internet.  I believe in standing up for Biblical principles, but what is so Biblical about Christmas trees?  Is that really the image we want to project? 

The truth is that we are never commanded to set aside a time to celebrate Jesus's birth in particular.  There is no record of Christmas being celebrated any earlier than the 4th century AD (,  That's right, the apostle Paul never sang a Christmas carol, and Peter never had a nativity set.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25 is a human invention.  

However, hear me when I say that I don't think it is wrong to sing Silent Night.  I like nativities.  I appreciate that much of the world does think about Jesus on Christmas (and Easter) because it presents a good opportunity to remind people that the Baby Jesus in that manger is the same Jesus who declared himself the way, the truth, and the life, and died on the cross to provide that way.  It is that death that I commemorate every week in a ritual instituted by Jesus and practiced by the new church from the very beginning.

Perhaps that's why I hate "the reason for the season" argument so much.  The Jesus who suffered so much for me can't be packaged with a pretty Christmas bow. I'll admit that for the most part, Christians are well meaning when they gently remind us to concentrate on Jesus during the holidays.   But I just want to shout, "Jesus is the reason for every season!"  Of course, people might stare, so I don't.

I don't because my goal is to spread the good news about Jesus to everyone I meet.  I can't do that if I am turning people off by getting angry about the local nativity scene every December. Instead, I need to be saturated in Jesus at all times.  I want to think about Jesus and celebrate Jesus and follow Jesus every day.  When people see me as a Christian, I want them seeing my love, joy, peace and patience.  I want them to see me shining Jesus's light.  I'm not saying I'm there yet, but that is what I want.

That means I will use Christmas as an opportunity to share my faith.  Missionaries do that all the time.  In foreign countries that may not celebrate Christmas or only celebrate it in a secular way, the holidays provide a perfect time to share our Christmas culture, which includes the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth.  It also means that I'll accept the "insult" of Happy Holidays with a smile on my face.  I'll sing Jingle Bells as heartily as Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  I'll also be just as zealous in sharing my faith in July as I am in December.  

I hope you'll do the same. By all means, use the Christmas season as an opportunity to tell others how Jesus came to this messy world. Display your nativity and sing Silent Night in the hopes someone will ask if you really believe all that stuff about baby Jesus.  Don't worry about the "holiday tree" or the lack of nativity at your city hall.  And when January comes around, be just as ready to share your faith.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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