November 30, 2006
The Real Substance of Christmas

by Donald G. Mashburn

Numerous public school administrators have ordered the removal of Nativity scenes from school Christmas plays, and even such things as elementary school drawings or signs depicting or naming Christ. These seem be part of a concerted effort – backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Education Association (NEA), and their ilk – to ban any sign of Christ in schools and public places. Students, and far too many adults, can’t be blamed if the real meaning – the substance – of Christmas has become blurred in their minds.

But the real substance of Christmas – the Christ of Christmas – is not a mental image. The substance of Christmas is what it means to those who believe that Jesus came from God to die on the cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the world.

That He’s present in the hearts and lives of His followers is evidenced by the opposition of some Christian parents to what one parent’s lawyer described as a, “clear form of discrimination.” Their strong objections are based on their beliefs that the discriminatory actions of school administrators are prompted by the obvious Christian significance of the Nativity scene and depictions of the Christ child.

Their thinking apparently was influenced by the school’s decision to permit Kwanzaa and Hanukkah displays. That thinking is reinforced by the ongoing effort of anti-Christian groups to remove “Christ” from Christmas. The anti-Christian activists don’t want to hear or see any public display or mention of the name of Jesus.

Some schools have even banned “Merry Christmas,” claiming its “religious significance” somehow violates the separation of church and state. One even removed “Christmas” from its calendar so students would not be exposed to the “Christ” part of “Christmas.” Others have banned all Christian hymns, such as “Silent Night.”

Most school administrators seem to accept the substance of Christmas as being only the rampant commercialism and political correctness that, sadly, have wrapped their tentacles around the birthday of Jesus Christ.

In their world of political-correctness-gone-goofy, “Happy Holidays” conveys their understanding of the substance of Christmas. But only short years ago, Christmas had special meaning to all of us on the day we celebrated the coming of the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace, “Immanuel, ... God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

For Christ is the real substance of Christmas. There’s no substitute. He’s the real deal in a world where too often form or style obscures substance.

The cynics who are intolerant of the Christ of Christmas should take a close look at this Jesus, Who was human enough to suffer the agony and shame of the cross for our sins, but was also divine – spotless, and worthy in God’s sight to be the price sufficient to pay for our redemption.

The historical Christ, Who left the grave victorious some 2,000 years ago, does not live in the commercial tinsel and glitter the secularized Christmas has become. He lives in the hearts of changed men, women and children. Their lives have been transformed by the teachings, life, death and resurrection of the babe born in a manger, the carpenter’s son who now sits at the right of God. (Romans 8:34).

It’s easy to see and understand this Jesus, the Christ of Christmas. He’s revealed in the Word of God – the Bible. And His life-changing handiwork is seen in the divinely transformed lives of His followers. From the first martyr Stephen, and the martyred apostles, to those who witness and stand for what’s right today, the miracles of changed lives attest to the divinity, power and real meaning of the Christ.

Christmas without Christ is empty, with little meaning. Against the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the worldly trappings of Christmas fade to nothing.

If we see Christmas only as a time to acquire “stuff,” we rob ourselves of the real meaning of Christmas. Worse, we may rob our children and grandchildren of the joy of being able to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

When we exit this life, the stuff acquired at Christmas will be meaningless – after the garage sale that can take care of most of it.

The whole meaning of Christmas is that Christ came; He loved us enough to suffer and die for us; and He’s coming again! And neither school superintendents nor the anti-God types that intimidate them with threats of lawsuits by ACLU lawyers can change that.