December 22, 2014

Christmas Looks, Sounds Different But Subtance is Unchanged

by Donald G. Mashburn

Christmas has a somewhat different “look” this year. I haven’t heard of any of the big retailers telling employees not to wish customers a “Merry Christmas.” And we have been spared outbreaks of the brain-addling “political correctness fever” that in past years led febrile public school administrators to ban Nativity scenes created by elementary school students who somehow learned why we celebrate Christmas.

The children seemed to have picked up on Christmas being all about the Christ Child, and were reflecting the reality that Jesus Christ is present in the hearts and lives of His followers. It’s a known fact, also, that many teachers and school administrators embrace that same reality, so maybe the word spread to those who were prone to come down with PC fever sometime around the first week of December.

It’s possible, also, that upset parents have taken a stand against efforts to remove “Christ” from Christmas and have made their voices heard with a clarity that school administrators understand.

Although big retailers and school administrations have for the most part avoided negative publicity from openly opposing mention of Christmas, the “sound” of Christmas has undergone some subtle changes, I fear. I’ve noticed, for example, that young employees in stores and offices seem more prone to wish me a “Happy Holiday,” or “Have a Wonderful Holiday” rather than the time-honored “Merry Christmas.”

I can’t tell if the avoidance of the word “Christmas” is a personal thing, or if it reflects the policy of employers or the influence of their contemporaries. So far, in these very unscientific “surveys,” no one has objected to my wishing them a Merry Christmas.

Still, I sense some movement – if it’s that – away from associating the season with the birth of Jesus Christ, the reason for Christians and Christian nations celebrating Christmas for centuries. The change in the sound of Christmas no doubt has been accelerated by the rampant commercialism that has wrapped its tentacles around the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Still, to me, “Happy Holidays” conveys little or none of the real substance of Christmas. Christmas once had special meaning to all of us on the day we celebrated the coming of the Savior of the world, “Immanuel, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

For all for whom Christmas is a special day of celebration, the real substance of Christmas is Jesus Christ – plus nothing! There’s no substitute for the Son of God. He’s the only real deal we can find at Christmas.

And cynics, and all who are intolerant or unbelieving of Jesus Christ, should take a close look at this Jesus, the Son of God, “Who did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17 NKJV).

He was “God with us,” but was human enough to suffer the agony and shame of the cross for our sins. He was man, but was also divine – sinless, spotless, the Perfect Sacrifice – and worthy in God’s sight to be the price sufficient to pay for our redemption.

This Jesus, the historical Christ, “became poor” for our sakes. He suffered the agony, torture, and death of the Cross to pay for the “sins of the world.” He was crucified, buried, and gloriously resurrected to reconcile sinners to a righteous God is. He is not to be found in the commercial tinsel and glitter of the secularized Christmas. His is found in His Word. And He is found in the hearts and lives of changed men, women and children.

Their lives, as Believers in the Christ “Who came to save that which was lost,” have been transformed by the teachings, life, death and resurrection of the babe that was born in a manger, and who now sits at the right of God interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

This Jesus, the Christ of Christmas, is revealed in the Word of God – the Bible. From the first martyr Stephen, to the martyred apostles, to those who witness and stand for what’s right today, He is seen in the divinely transformed lives of His followers.

Christmas without Christ has no substance, and little meaning. Against His life, death, and resurrection, the worldly trappings of Christmas fade to nothing.

Those for whom Christmas is only a time to acquire “stuff,” should be reminded that when they exit this life, the stuff acquired at Christmas will be meaningless – a one-day garage sale can take care of most of it.

The real substance of Christmas is Christ. The real message of Christmas is that He loved us enough to suffer and die for us; and He’s coming again!