Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Having a Christ-Centered Christmas?

Dear Friends,

In the fourth century, the church established a liturgical service (the “Christ Mass”) that would celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. And while the exact date of the birth of Jesus is unknown, the earliest known reference to His birth being on December 25th was in a commentary on the Book of Daniel that Hippolytus of Rome wrote in 204 A.D. Some time after that, a pagan festival honoring the sun god “Sol Invictus” began to be celebrated on that day and it was later claimed that the church then formally established December 25th in the fourth century as the birthday of Jesus to counteract the influence of paganism. But in 320 A.D., one theologian answered this criticism by noting, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

If we were to objectively look at our own pre-Christmas activities, preparing for parties, setting out snowman inflatables on our front lawn, stringing colored lights, “Black Friday” and a frantic shopping for gifts, we might see that what we’re doing is far more “secular” than “Christian.” That’s why we might want to spend these remaining few days preparing for a Christ-Centered Christmas and here are seven things that may be helpful:

Read a Christmas Devotional Book. 
Read as a daily devotional or ignore the designated days in Advent and just read until the words reveal something that stops you and fills your thoughts with what’s personally meaningful for you. Spend some quiet time meditating on what the Holy Spirit just called to your attention and ask God to speak to your heart what He wants you to know.

Be Bold with Your Faith!
Say “Merry Christmas” to everyone. If you are genuinely worried about being politically incorrect and offending someone, recent surveys show that 96% of people in America celebrate a traditional Christmas! Even many Jews, Muslims and Atheists!

Read the Christmas Story in your Bible.
Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:5-56; Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 2:1-20.

Surround Yourself and Family with Visual Images of the “Reason for the Season.”
The focus for Christians and non-Christians alike is a decorated tree. Rhianna and I have had trees with lights and brightly-colored painted glass round ornaments. Trees with only country-cute wood ornaments but our tree today, with the exception of a few religious ornaments, is nearly all crosses – it’s our “Jesus Tree” (see Rhianna’s photo above).

In the Interest of Full Disclosure: I confess that I do insist on hanging my plastic "Jack in the Box dude riding a reindeer" on the tree. Our yearly tradition is that I put it in the front and Rhianna later hides it in the back.

And no Christian home should be without a Nativity scene. That’s because the Holy Family with Jesus in the manger, always has been, and always will be, the most Christ-centered image of Christmas. We love to decorate our homes at this time of year, but if you invited a family, who didn’t know you well, into your house, would they know that you’re a Christian by the images depicted in your seasonal decorations? This may be an uncomfortable thought, but others can always tell who or what we worship by the things in our home that are important and meaningful to us!

Fill your Home with Christmas Music. 
And I don’t mean “LAST CHRISTMAS” by Wham! or Mariah Carey’s hit holiday song “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU” (Spoiler Alert: She’s not singing to Jesus). There’s more and more secular “Christmas” music on our radios and being streamed, but to keep Christ in Christmas, we need to listen to and sing along with the traditional Christmas hymns we remember from our childhood. There are also many excellent contemporary Christmas albums with Christ-centered lyrics in genres from Gospel to Country.

Watch a Biblical Christmas Movie.
Enjoy the sentimental Hallmark Christmas movies or “It’s A Wonderful Life” but also watch “The Nativity Story.” Dove Foundation reviews said “The cinematography in this film is breathtaking and the acting is solid throughout.” The film was also acclaimed for its historical and biblical accuracy and shows the viewer what life in those times would have realistically been like. “The Nativity Story” is THE Christmas movie.

Go to Church. Attend a Christmas Eve service. 

Many of us have focused this Advent season on Christmas-centered activities – the tree, outside lights, shopping, decorations, gifts, cookies, greeting cards and we finally got the inflatable snowman working again on the front lawn. These are all well and fine, but now for these next twelve days, let’s transition from a Christmas-centered mind set to a Christ-centered Advent that will prepare us for the coming of the Lord and our celebration of Him on December 25th. When we do so, we set aside the stress-inducing crowdedness of our days and give Jesus the space to move fully into our lives.

When we make this holiday season Christ-centered, we are rewarded with His grace and with the love and warmth of His presence in our hearts. And then dear loved one, that’s when Christmas becomes Christmas...

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