Christmas Sermon – 2018
Lord, I give my soul and mind to the pursuit of your eternal goodness.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Mathew, 1:18, ESV
When I was a little boy my favorite TV Christmas special was “The Little Drummer Boy”. Sure, I loved them all, but something struck me inside after watching that particular one. Even today, just hearing the song from that special stirs my spirit and humbles me to lower my head in reverence to Christ and to God.
Fast forward to today and I’m a cynical American consumer tainted by the unpleasantness of what Christmas has become and the increasing acceptance of the unfair treatment of people. This year, no same olé Christmas hubbub about “how we just need to get along”. Let us open our eyes WIDER, see where we are, where we can go, and frankly, call it like it is.
I’m the first person to wake up Christmas morning, ready to spoil my loved ones. And who doesn’t like getting stuff? I know I’m all for it. I’m as guilty as anyone in occupying my thoughts with Christmas paraphernalia, music, events and shopping. But then I remember Christ being born and I feel disengaged.
Both canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew describe the events for the birth of Jesus similarly, but do not state a precise day and time. The day we celebrate, December 25th, conformed over time. What that means is we made it up. We “choose” to celebrate on this day and we’re comfortable with it. With that said, the revelry and materialism versus a more serious celebration of Christ’s birth have been an earmark of debate for centuries.
So where are we today?
December 25th has become two parallel occasions, with two hero’s vying for our attention, Jesus and the relatively new guy Santa. Now I’m not going to go so far as to call Santa evil (the letters do spell Satan and he does wear red, just saying), but the red suit dude has taken up way too much space and attention “away” (that’s the key word here) from the real reason we celebrate “Christ’s Mass”.
Recently, I came across this article in the Flipboard app, titled “Innocent girl asks Santa to heal her cancer-stricken cousin, his response had dad bawling”. It’s a touching example of a child’s innocence, a compassionate man (the person playing Santa), and the family. He explains to her that Santa doesn’t have the power to heal, but he knows someone who can, and he prays with her to the only real power in the universe, God and Christ.
Is the hero of the story a guy in a Santa suit who prays and has strong faith?
The article never mentions who he prays to or gives rightful attention to the force in the universe that will actually make the girl heal. It only sites the “power of faith”. What does that mean? So faith, as an emotional state, is what we all need? No! God is what we need. Christ is what we need. Knowledge and acceptance of them is what we need.
If you pull the lens out far enough and assess the details, our culture invests all it’s energy into the wonderland of Santas world, instead of the all-powerful world of God. The movie “The Polar Express” has a final message, “Believe”, and this diversion is prevalent everywhere. Billions of dollars have been spent on marketing the concept of a man in a red suit that showers us with presents, spreads love all around, and makes all things better if we only “believe” in him. And he coincidentally does this on the same day that we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Hmm.
When I came to this new perspective it ate away at my brain and wouldn’t quit. I already confessed that I’m an American consumer who grew up with the promise of Christmas Day as the best day of the year. I will also confess, until I fully embraced my acceptance of Christ and my mission to God, I had not really put all that much attention on Jesus’ birthday. No church. No prayer. I paid it no mind.
Remember in “The Matrix” when Neo is pulled from the Matrix and place back into the real world? That’s what it’s like when you see God’s world as it is.
I sat down to write what I hoped would be a beautiful sermon on the birth of Christ. As I waited for the words to come, all I could focus on is what was wrong with Christmas, with myself and with our culture. Trying to form a more “upbeat” piece of writing felt phony. I now know who God is, have no doubt about His power and validity, and devoted my life to continually gaining Christ’s wisdom and sharing that with the world.
Did I have a “Christmas” that was both secular and spiritual? You bet I did! I already embrace and celebrate Christ everyday. God knows this.
Christmas should be a day for reflection on the birth of Jesus and it’s significance, and finally giving thanks to God. The rest is an extension of that joy, shared with others as a bonus of our culture – or, it’s nothing, no more than a diversion from that.
Can you have both, Jesus and Santa?
God’s Christmas present to us all was His Son, Jesus. I hope you embrace it and choose between these two, Jesus and Santa, correctly. (Santa, you’re winning…for now.)
Jesus, your love for us is never ending, even in our age of growing disillusionment and desertion. We celebrate your birth as the gift it was and still is and always will be. We thank you for our fortune, pray in earnest for the forgiveness of our errors, and trust wholly in your love. We humbly ask for the safety of those truly in need.
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it. (Christmas, n.d.)
The earliest known Christmas celebration is recorded in a fourth-century manuscript compiled in Rome. (Christmas, n.d.)
Relation to concurrent celebrations
Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity. These elements, including the Yule log from Yule and gift giving from Saturnalia, became syncretized into Christmas over the centuries. The prevailing atmosphere of Christmas has also continually evolved since the holiday’s inception, ranging from a sometimes raucous, drunken, carnival-like state in the Middle Ages, to a tamer family-oriented and children-centered theme introduced in a 19th-century transformation. In fact, the celebration of Christmas was banned on more than one occasion within certain Protestant groups, such as the Puritans, due to concerns that it was too pagan or unbiblical. Jehovah’s Witnesses also reject the celebration of Christmas. (Christmas, n.d.)
In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in western Christianity focused on the visit of the magi. But the medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the “forty days of St. Martin” (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent. In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent. Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5); a time that appears in the liturgical calendars as Christmastide or Twelve Holy Days. The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.
Following the Protestant Reformation, many of the new denominations, including the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church, continued to celebrate Christmas. In 1629, the Anglican poet John Milton penned On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, a poem that has since been read by many during Christmastide. Donald Heinz, a professor at California State University, states that Martin Luther “inaugurated a period in which Germany would produce a unique culture of Christmas, much copied in North America.” Among the congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church, Christmas was celebrated as one of the principal evangelical feasts. However, in 17th century England, some groups such as the Puritans, strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the “trappings of popery” or the “rags of the Beast”. In contrast, the established Anglican Church “pressed for a more elaborate observance of feasts, penitential seasons, and saints’ days. (Christmas, n.d.)
Choice of December 25 date
In the 3rd century, the date of birth of Jesus was the subject of both great interest and great uncertainty. Around AD 200, Clement of Alexandria wrote: In other writing of this time, May 20, April 18 or 19, March 25, January 2, November 17, and November 20 are all suggested. Various factors contributed to the selection of December 25 as a date of celebration: it was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar; it was about nine months after March 25, the date of the vernal equinox and a date linked to the conception of Jesus. (Christmas, n.d.)
“Christmas” is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”. It is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which is from Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038 followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131. Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), “Messiah”, meaning “anointed”; and mæsse is from Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist. (Christmas, n.d.)
Christmas. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 19, 2018, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas