Monday, December 05, 2005

CrossTies Devotional Article for December 4, 2005

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Problems With Christmas
By Bill Denton

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:6-7, NASB95)

We often talk about the night before Christmas, but what do you think about on the morning after Christmas? I've been thinking about this wonderful thing called "the spirit of Christmas." Have you noticed it? Once a year toward the winter solstice, something odd happens. People's attitudes go through an annual change. People start talking about peace and goodwill. They go out of their way to give and forgive. Families get together. We call this different atmosphere "the spirit of Christmas."   -- Stuart Briscoe, “Christmas 365 Days A Year,”

Depending on who is talking, you might hear several criticisms or problems with Christmas.  As I see it, the problems revolved around three basic facts.  Some think that to bring up these things we’re being negative or picky.  Well, hold on, because that’s not true, but we do need to consider the three facts from which the problems spring.

The first is the date itself.  At best, it’s an arbitrary date.  The truth is that we just don’t know when Jesus was born.  Some believe December 25 is a good guess, others think it’s considerably off.  But, we need to avoid the extreme position of some people who do all they can to “uncelebrate” Jesus’ birth because they dislike the date.  The more important fact is that he was born, and it’s not all that uncommon for us to pick arbitrary dates to celebrate a person’s birth.  Focus on the essential truth here instead of the one nobody is going to resolve.

The second is the celebration itself.  The Bible does not tell us to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  There is plenty of emphasis on celebrating his death in the Lord’s supper, but celebrating Jesus’ birth just isn’t there.  Then again, how do we leave it out?  You can’t get to his death without first getting to his birth.  Not only that, but looking at the good news in Jesus, you will discover that everything about him revolves around five fundamental facts:  the incarnation; the crucifixion; the resurrection; the ascension; and his return.  The truth is that the incarnation of Jesus is what sets up all the others.  Now, you can eliminate a birthday party if you want, but don’t go so far that you miss the essential truth of God come in the flesh that happened at his birth.

The third is quite different from the first two.  They are more biblical or theological in nature.  The third problem has more to do with the brevity of the celebration.  Stuart Briscoe’s observation is right.  When people begin thinking about the birth of Jesus, something happens to the “spirit” of the people.  But, this may bring us to the greatest of all problems with Christmas:  it’s too brief of a celebration.  All the good-will is focused down on a week or two at the end of the year.  Briscoe’s sermon goes on to bemoan the fleeting nature of the “spirit of Christmas,” and he’s right about that.  What a difference it would be if Christ were our focus all year long.

© Copyright  2005, Dr. Bill DentonAll Rights Reserved.Articles may not be reprinted in any "for profit" publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.
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