It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
The shops are playing Christmas music. Trees decorated; tinsel sparking. Everywhere I go there is a faint jingling of bells, the waft of warm mince pies, people dressed up in jolly red outfits and fake white beards (that scare my one-and-a-half year old daughter to death) and lights!
Oh yes and let’s not forget the advertising! The endless, pointless perfume adverts on TV that you only get to see at Christmas. People waiting for ‘Christmas to start’ when they see the a big, red articulated lorry drive across their screens. That must-have board game that no one will understand how to play, and as it is 2015 everyone must get some Star Wars related gift – surely!? Well, that’s what they keep telling us anyway.
Now don’t get me wrong – I like Christmas! I do. And I have come to accept that although parts of what we now-a-days know as ‘Christmas’ celebrations have nothing to do with the Christian festival, I can still enjoy them.
I like having a laugh at a pantomime (a very British thing to do – apologies to my American readers).
I enjoy eating a mince pie or two.
I like going to look at the Christmas lights with my family.
I think the giving of gifts is an amazing opportunity to bless others.
I even enjoy a dance or two at my work Christmas party.
However there is one thing I do not like. It is something that can easily happen, even by a church who has good intentions at heart.
As a church, and as church leaders, we need to be careful to craft a message that is uncompromisingly truth-filled.
Christmas has become awash with traditions, advertising, consumerism, as well as family celebration, sharing and love. However, if people outside of the church are to understand what Christmas is truly about, the church needs to be very clear with the story they tell.
What I am talking about is when churches mix the Christmas story of Jesus’ incarnation alongside secular traditions (such as Santa / Father Christmas, that ‘christmassy’ sound track from a popular Christmas movie, etc).
Although not within a church context, we can see the damage this can do by looking at the ‘nativity’ plays primary schools in the UK are performing. In recent years it has become common place to ‘re-interpret’ the Christmas story. This in itself is not a bad idea. However, what has happened is the focus has shifted from the true story of Jesus’ birth and has moved to the peripheral edges of the interpretation. It is not uncommon for the actual Christmas story to feature very little, or not at all in a primary school ‘nativity play’ just as long as everyone gets to see the robot, the dog, the hot air balloon and the helpful policeman!
As churches the clarity of the Christian message should be clear and uncomplicated.
Mixed signals only serve to confuse and dilute the gospel message.
A perfect opportunity
Another thing to avoid is avoiding Christmas altogether!
Despite being infused with some less-than-Christian traditions, Christmas is an amazing opportunity for the church. It is a time of year when people are more open to the message of Jesus, simply because it is Christmas.
Just because there are other voices shouting loudly in the Christmas ‘market place’ and trying to gain people’s attention, it is no excuse for the church to fall silent. The church should in fact be continuing to point people’s hearts and minds towards what Christmas is about:
Towards God – who laid aside his majesty
Towards God – who became one of us
Towards God – who took our sin upon himself
Towards God – who suffered and died for us
Towards God – who defeated death and rose again
Towards God – who invites us now into relationship and oneness with himself
Invite those in your community to experience a personal Christmas in their own lives – Christ being born within.