Last night my wife and I drove around town looking at the Christmas lights. Some were beautiful, some garish, some a little bit of both but one stood out. It was a nativity scene with Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and Santa. It was a little jarring. I wish I had stopped and asked the owner of the house what the purpose of the display was. But I’m not that forward. Instead I’ve been thinking about it all day. I can’t decide if it is a clever satire on the commercialism of Christmas or a tone deaf attempt at celebrating the season. I really hope it is the former.
The War on Christmas
Growing up in the fifties and early sixties I remember people complaining even back then, ‘Christmas is too commercial’. That was the original war on Christmas but it had nothing to do with being able to say “Merry Christmas”. The war was over the heart and soul of Christmas. And for all intents and purposes Christmas has lost.
There wasn’t a gift exchange at the manger. The wise men brought gifts to the King. The shepherds came and humbled themselves before Him. Herod sent soldiers to kill him. The greatest gift of all was God’s gift to man; eternal salvation though Jesus Christ.
Today we have taken the concept of giving and turned it into a competitive sport. I have heard commercials telling you how to ‘win’ at Christmas. If you have young children you need to buy them one or more of hundreds of ‘must have’ toys or gadgets. For adults a new car or diamond ring will suffice. For those of us (most of us) who can’t afford such extravagant gifts there is always the guilt and credit card debt.
Can we return to the true meaning of Christmas?
Of course we can. The true meaning of Christmas is not that Jesus was born but His birth is the start to His ministry. The start to a lifetime of giving which ended with the greatest gifts of all, both salvation and the promise of eternal life. To truly know what giving is, however, we need to examine how Christ gave. And to whom.
Hope was the gift Christ gave the most. And he gave this gift to the poor, the forgotten, the dregs of society. He gave hope to the hopeless tempered with compassion. Christ knew as James said, “16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:16).
Gifts shouldn’t be a source of pride for the giver or a way to curry favor. They should be given modestly (Matt. 6:1-4) and generously. John Wesley said, “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man, when he gets all he can and saves all he can, does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!” AZQuotes.
To learn more about giving please read my article on the greatest Christian of all – No Greater Love