The Problem With Christmas Today

Normal
0

Title: The Problem With the Christmas Today

 

Text: Mark 8:36-37, Matthew 13:21, Isaiah 22:13

 

Time: December 6th, 2013

 

 

 

Christmas is a special time of year, but it’s becoming something that it’s not. It’s becoming less and less of what it started out as, and more and more of something else. The original intent of Christmas is exactly as the name implies – Christ mass, or a remembrance of Christ by the Christian church. It’s a time of meditation and reflection on the meaning of the Christmas account outlined in the Bible. It’s a season of awe and wonder that God would stoop so low as to become man on earth in the form of the Christ child in order to save us from our sins. It originally meant a season of remembering Jesus, particularly his birth in Bethlehem. But it has become gradually more and more into something entirely different, to the point that today its possible to go through the entire Christmas holiday and not once think of or remember “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  It’s happening more and more that people are forgetting the point and purpose of the Christmas holiday. Well, if we can see this happening right before our very eyes year and after – and who can miss it because it’s easy for all to see – then we can take steps to correct this problem. At least, we can make corrections in our own life to restore the original meaning of Christmas. We may not be able to “save” Christmas from the secular distortions that are corrupting the holiday, but we can “save” Christmas in our own life, the life of our family, and in the life of the church. What are the main problems with Christmas today in our secular world? I see three main concerns that must be addressed today by Christians. First, Christmas is becoming too commercial. Who can deny that every year the marketing and merchandising of Christmas is incrementally increased? Isn’t it obvious that stores are getting more and more aggressive in “selling” Christmas as the years go by? This is a growing problem that needs to be addressed by Christians. Second, Christmas is becoming too cluttered. What I mean is that more and more things are stuffed into the Christmas season. It used to be a few Christmas classics were sung in churches, or sung by choirs on radio and TV. But today, the music industry has discovered that you don’t need Christ to celebrate Christmas, just a jazzy tune with a few Christmas lyrics sprinkled in. Now it seems like every recording star has to write a “Christmas” song that often doesn’t have anything to do with the original meaning of the holiday. And that’s just in the area of music. So-called “Christmas” TV specials now usually have at best a token religious song or two, but for the most part the content it something more along the lines of general holiday themes. The Christmas landscape is becoming so cluttered it’s hard to see or hear anything religious or spiritual at all. This is another problem. Third, Christmas is becoming too celebrated. What I mean is, people are celebrating the celebration. Or in other words, people are throwing parties for the sake of partying, not for the sake of remembering anything spiritually special. Today, Christmas is bigger than ever, but it’s not the same Christmas; it’s becoming something else entirely. We need to address these issues as Christians. Let me explain further.

 

 

First, Christmas is becoming too commercial. Mark 8:36-37, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” What started out as a harmless practice of gift giving at Christmas time has become a buying frenzy, a time of materialistic, greedy indulgence. Americans are going deeper in debt than every before, but that doesn’t seem to stop the spending. In fact, our federal government has convinced us that it is our patriotic duty to spend in order to stimulate the economy. News reports give daily economic news as every new financial statistic comes out, as if the goal is to spend as much as possible to expand the economy more. Of course, businesses also encourage spending, so during the Christmas season we are bombarded with even more advertising appeals to get us to spend. The result is that instead of a quite, peaceful remembrance of Jesus, we go through one of the most intense and hectic times of the year. Sales fuel shopping, which increases spending, that leads to financial stress even before the month of December is over. And we’re told this is normal and natural for this time of year, but that’s not true. Before Christmas became an economic feeding frenzy it was a time of quiet reflection and joyful celebration of the birth of the Messiah Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem. But today, because of all the economic hype, Christmas is anything but peaceful; to the contrary, it’s stressful. Now we have ask ourselves, “How far will this economic hustle and bustle go? How far will we let it go before we simply say, ‘Enough is enough!’” As Jesus once said, “It is impossible to serve both God and money.” Well, it’s the same in celebrating Christmas – it’s impossible to both celebrate a religious holiday and a commercial holiday. I think as Christians we must scale-back in our economic activity instead of increasing it around Christmastime. We must slow down our spending instead of speeding it up, as the world is pushing us to do. This calls for living contrary to the current fads and fashions. We must resist the blatant commercialization of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, because it interferes with the true celebration of our faith. The commercial bombardment robs us of the very point and purpose of Christmas, which in fact, has nothing to do with the buying and selling products for personal consumption. Yes, the magi did bring gifts to the Christ child, which we remember with every Nativity scene, but this doesn’t mean we should overwhelm the whole Christmas celebration with gift-giving. It’s taking one aspect of Christmas out of all proportion, and neglecting almost every other. It’s not healthy, it’s not right, and we must bring ourselves back into balance. We can’t follow the world; it’s lost in it’s own sinfulness. So we must follow God in simplicity and sincerity during the Christmas season.

 

 

Second, Christmas is becoming too cluttered. Matthew 13:21, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making in unfruitful.” This is the famous Parable of the Sower taught by Jesus Christ. The seed that fell among the thorns was choked out by the cares and concerns of life, and it never came to bear fruit. That’s what happens when the celebration of Christmas becomes too cluttered with other things. These other things aren’t necessarily bad things in and of themselves, but they become bad when they choke out the true meaning of Christmas, or when they bury it under a boatload of other things so that the Christmas holiday hardly resembles a holy day anymore. That’s what is happening today. What do I mean specifically? Take for example holidays. It used to be that Christmas was Christmas, but not anymore. It’s Hanukah also, and it’s Kwanzaa, and it’s this or that. I already mentioned the expansion of holiday music that bears little or no connection with the original Christmas celebration. And there is multiplication of modern traditions that are seemingly invented every other year, to the point, now, that there is so much clutter in society in and around Christmas that Christmas itself gets choked out. The clutter has taken over the whole holiday. TV is filled with specials that are unrelated to the birth of Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas. Holidays these days now must include an overly hyped and overly promoted football game, or some other professional sports contest on TV, cluttering family celebrations even more. It used to be that families would attend church around December 25th, or even on Christmas Eve, but because of the unnecessary social clutter around the holidays, today it’s just as likely to find families attending movies, as holiday cinema releases draw more and more into theaters instead of churches. This further waters down the true meaning of Christmas. Yes, there is today a never ending supply of special activities and events, but more and more of these so-called holiday happenings are unrelated to anything remotely Christian. This is another example of the clutter that fills our lives around Christmas today. What can be done? As Christians we need to think long and hard before we fill our schedules with things unrelated to the “reason for the season” – Jesus. We certainly shouldn’t contribute to the clutter by participating in all the “other things” that are offered around Christmas. It means we need to be more focused on true Christmas activities and forgo most of the other things. This will help us keep Christmas, Christmas.

 

 

Third, Christmas is becoming too celebrated. Isaiah 22:13, “’Let us eat and drink,’ you say, ‘for tomorrow we die!’” The prevailing attitude today in our secular culture is existentialism, or in other words, the philosophy of “live for the moment, live for today.” So in respect to the holiday celebrations, people today tend to celebrate the celebration. Americans love a good party, so they make Christmas a month-long party, but they often leave out the very reason for the season. This is what I mean when I say that Christmas is too much celebrated. Not that the real reason for the season is celebrated too much, but that too much celebrating in general takes place. In other words, December is a 31-day party called the Christmas season. It’s used as an excuse to over-indulge in almost every way. I’ve already talked about the spending splurge, but I haven’t even talked about the eating and drinking that typically characterizes Christmas. Now there’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking in moderation, but if we do so in excess, or if we do so and neglect to remember the true spiritual significance of Christmas, we fail to truly celebrate Christmas. In other words, there are good ways to celebrate the holiday season, and there are not so good ways. Our culture seems to have lost its way in knowing the difference between celebrating Christmas properly and celebrating it improperly. In the early days of our nation, and even before the Revolutionary War, pilgrims came to North America from Europe to escape what they considered the corruption of Christianity. One of the least known things about the pilgrims was there rejection of the Christmas holiday, which was celebrated in Europe at the time. Not that it was celebrated like we do today, but it was celebrated as a Feast Day by the traditional churches. The pilgrims were appalled at the revelry and indulgence that they observed among Christians, and sponsored by the churches. They rejected the decadence they witnessed in Europe to the point that when they arrived in the New World they refused to copy the European tradition of Christmas celebration. Their observances were simple, plain and minimal in contrast. While I’m not advocating returning to the pilgrim or puritan tradition, I think we should reject a lot of what goes on under the banner of Christmas celebrations. A lot of it has nothing to do with the story of Jesus in Bethlehem. Some of it is just fun and games, harmless fun. But some of it is just silly, ridiculous and foolish. I think we need to use wisdom in knowing what to participate in, and knowing what not to participate in. If we try to throw too much celebration into the mix, we risk losing the meaning of what Christmas is really all about.

 

 

I’m not a historian, but I can read church history. As I read it, Christianity was almost ruined for good by a good intentioned Roman Emperor named Constantine. Before him, Rome was often opposed to Christianity, and at best was apathetic to it. Christians struggled to maintain their faith in a hostile culture. They had to turn to God in prayer and trust him for each and every aspect of the life of faith. But after Constantine, the church was given favored status in the eyes of the Roman Empire. The Emperor converted to the faith and showered Christians with all kinds of material goodies and favors. He built them church buildings and lavished church leaders with riches and social standing. This seemingly generous act nearly killed the church because it made a simple faith in God and a simple church organization into a very complex political, economic and social institution. That’s what the modern celebration of Christmas is doing to the true Christmas holiday – it’s making it complex, complicated and cluttered. In thinking about this problem, I’ve concluded that we really do need to simplify our celebration of Christmas. We need to scale down a lot of things we’ve allowed to grow out of control. There was no sinister plan to clutter Christmas, it just happened. But now that we know it’s happening, we need to cut back and simplify. I’m not advocating going back to the days of Puritanism and the pilgrims, but I am saying we need to hear how they were appalled by the corruption of Christmas they observed in Europe, and how they were determined not to fall into the same trap. While not going as far as they did – totally abstaining from the Christmas holiday celebration in protest – we can do something more practical, and that’s scale back our cluttered schedules and activities in December. We need to rethink the holiday by asking ourselves, “What’s really important and what’s not important? What things should we be involved in, and what things should we pass up?” By focusing on the truly important and essential things, by rejecting or neglecting or bypassing the secondary things, we can actually better celebrate the season. It’s actually more meaningful to focus on the best things, the few things, because that’s what Christmas is really all about. We must resist the temptation to constantly expand the definition of Christmas to include anything and everything thrown at us by the secular world. They show no restraint. But we as Christians need to define our own boundaries in celebrating Christmas each year and not simply follow the secular crowd into whatever they’re into. How can we refocus on the true meaning of Christmas this year? How can I cover the basic and essential things? By answering these questions we can truly honor God in celebrating Christmas properly.

 

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: