FAITH MATTERS | Suggestions for Christians at Christmastime

Have you seen a car with a magnetic sign urging “Keep Christ in Christmas”? I have mixed feelings about those.

Likewise, some greet you these days with “Merry Christmas.” Others: “Happy holidays.”

No matter which greeting you prefer-- or your employer requires-- let’s nail down three truths about the concern of some over how they (whoever they are) are taking Christ out of Christmas.

1. Don’t assume the worst if someone abbreviates Christmas as “Xmas.”

X is the first Greek letter in “Xpistos,” that is, “Christ.”

Also, people have written “Xmas” since at least 1753. It’s not a recent attempt to secularize a Christian worship day.

2. God has not set particular days for Christians to worship him.

In freedom, Christians have chosen days like Sundays (since Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday) and Dec. 25.

But in the Bible Paul warns first-century Galatians, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you.”

Our church will have two services on Christmas Eve -- 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. -- and a holy communion service at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day. (Shameless plug: Join us!)

If another church has a different schedule, that isn’t necessarily wrong. Do you have to work Dec. 24 or 25? Me too. That isn’t necessarily wrong. “He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5).

One common Bible reading for tomorrow says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

3. Why get miffed at merchants or government figures for failing to proclaim Christian faith to us? Why expect public schools to form that faith in our children?

Didn’t God give them different roles in our society?

And why expect slogans to stop sellers from selling more, or advertisers from advertising more?

To paraphrase Tom Ehrich, if we’re going to keep Christ in Christmas, besides celebrating his birth with song and prayer, God’s Word and sacrament, wouldn’t we also:

n Smile at our neighbors.

n Share our bounty with the needy.

n Lose our appetite for things.

n Take in unwanted babies.

n Work/pray for peace among warring nations.

n Offer the despairing a fresh dose of hope,

n Weep in wonder over the God who loves the world so deeply?

Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.