Christmas is the most important festival in the Christian calendar and the way we celebrate it may indicate our attitude to it.

There seem to be three main attitudes among Christians towards Christmas. The first is what I would call “non-celebration”, which is adopted by members of some extreme evangelical groups. “Why celebrate Christmas”, they ask; or some say “every day is Christmas for me!”; some even reason “since we do not know the real date of Christmas why bother to celebrate it?” Yet, they celebrate their own birthdays so why not celebrate the birthday of the Son of God?  Why do we honour ourselves but fail to honour God? God says, “I will not share my glory with anyone!” Yet, as one writer points out,  when we sing “we exalt thee” we actually mean “we exalt us”. These churches celebrate their annual day, anniversaries, centenaries, etc. but refuse to celebrate one of the most important divine act of the birth of the Son of God as a human in order to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for us.  Christmas does not stop with the manger but goes on to the cross at Calvary and the empty tomb! Should we not celebrate this? The second group has ‘commercialized” Christmas. Their celebration is all about purchases and fun. Their god is Santa Claus not Jesus Christ!

The real way to celebrate Christmas is reverentially and with joy. We celebrate the coming of God’s son into this world over 2000 years ago and look forward to his second coming.  We should re-read the nativity story in Luke chapter 2 as a family each Christmas and evaluate what it means to us today.

Thirty-four Christmases ago as I held my baby son in my arms I suddenly realized that was what the miracle of Christmas was. God came as a helpless baby, trusting himself to the fallen humans to care for him and protect him. The creator of the universe (Col. 1: 16-17) came as the most helpless thing on earth – a human baby!! The wonder of this great event, this most wonderful divine accomplishment should fill us with awe and praise.

Let us re-look at our attitudes to Christmas. Celebrations are not wrong, but they should not loom so large that they hide the real meaning of Christmas.
As someone succinctly said:

The meaning of the season is “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”.
The reason of the season is “that whoever believes in him should have eternal life”.
Since the emphasis is on God’s love and giving, that should be our attitude to this season. We should consider giving to those in need, giving love to the unloved, giving time to the lonely, giving care to those who need help. One year we invited some poor children to share our Christmas lunch. What other ways can we be involved? Only then will the promise of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to all men” be realized.
Do you know the story of the fourth wise man? He started out at the same time after seeing the star to meet the other three wise men with his gift of three precious jewels for the baby King of the Jews. Unfortunately he got delayed as he found a young girl being kidnapped by some bandits in the desert . He ransomed her by giving them one of his jewels and took her home. By the time he reached the meeting place they had left so he set out on his own. He reached Bethlehem, but by that time the Magi had left by another route and Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus had already fled to Egypt. So, instead of the baby King he found a distraught mother begging one of Herod’s soldiers to spare her two year old son and he gave his second jewel to help her. For the next thirty years he roamed throughout Israel but he never found the baby King he had set out to worship. Finally, he reached Jerusalem and as he rode towards the hill of Golgotha he found a slave being severely beaten so he gave his last jewel to buy his freedom. Then he went up the hill and saw three crosses and right above the center cross were these words – “The King of the Jews”. He cried to God, “Lord, I searched for thirty-three years to worship this King. Why did I come so late?” And a voice said from heaven, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That is the spirit and attitude of Christmas!

Dr Peter S C Pothan lives in Bangalore with his wife, children and grandchildren and has been involved in UESI since 1971.

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