Christmastime should make us think of the birth of Jesus, and to some extent, it does. But mostly the word “Christmas” has come to mean Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas lists, Santa Claus, snow, Christmas shopping, Christmas dinners, Christmas presents and getting stuff.
A line from an old Tom Lehrer song sums up the predominant “spirit of Commercial Christmas” in America: “Hark the herald tribune sings, advertising wondrous things. God rest ye merry merchants, may ye make the yuletide pay! Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy! (Tom Lehrer – A Christmas Carol)
The birth of Jesus had nothing to do with any of these things. John 3:16-17 tells us what Christmas really means: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” The birth of Jesus was a sacrificial gift of love to the world.
The Father sacrificed His beloved Son to die on a cross. Jesus sacrificed His life for our redemption. Two gifts of sacrificial love. How do our Christmas celebrations today even remotely resemble this precious miracle of God’s love, grace, forgiveness and sacrifice?
I don’t read anywhere in the Bible of Jesus’ family handing out gifts to all the relatives to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Three gifts were given, but they were given to Jesus by the Magi. There is no record in the New Testament of any celebration to honor Jesus’ birth. Nor did Jesus ask anyone to do so. He only asked that each time we celebrate Holy Communion, we remember Him.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells us we are giving to Him when we feed the hungry, welcome (house) the foreigner, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. He says this type of giving has eternal (sheep-or-goat) ramifications.
Instead of perpetuating Commercial Christmas this year, what about giving to the Lord by helping a needy family with a food basket or a poor child with a coat or a blanket? Father, I pray that You search our hearts. Forgive us for losing sight of the true meaning of Christ’s birth and Christ’s message. Forgive us for getting caught up in the annual spending spree that does nothing to further Your Kingdom. Free us from our bondage to Commercial Christmas and return us to the true meaning of Christ’s birth. Amen.
The Rev. Anne Barber is pastor of My Father’s House Church, 7215 U.S. 301, Ellenton. Sunday service 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 776-9016.