‘Tis the season to condemn your neighbor over Christmas terminology, and sure as sugarplums, Christians all over America have dug out the trenches in an attempt to “keep Christ in Christmas”, as secularists try to tug the knot over the Happy Holidays line on the ground. With the smell of fruitcake and litigation in the air, what better time to reexamine the meaning of the holiday and find out why people get so bent out of shape over which festive phrase is tossed across the cash register?
To start with, I want to limit my audience to only logical, critical thinkers. If you accept all that “Jesus is the reason for the season” jazz and you actually believe in the literal accuracy of the Biblical Christmas story – complete with angels, wise men, a star playing red-light-green-light, and the virgin birth, then, quite simply, I’m not talking to you.
I’m writing this to average, everyday Americans who know that the laws of science apply no matter what you believe. People who accept that there is no more proof of angels than there is of flying reindeer, and that if you’re going to believe that a Jewish baby born in a stable is going to return to earth someday and rule the world, you may as well believe in Santa Claus too.
Most of all, I’m writing to good, decent people who don’t need the threat of eternal torment or the promise of golden streets to know that things like peace, goodwill, the spirit of giving, and spending time with family and friends are important. After all, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus (I’m looking at you, Rand Paul), what matters is the warmth and fellowship that comes from being with the ones you love, celebrating old traditions or creating new ones.
Or is it?
Let’s think about this. Why do we dust off all of our favorite virtues for the last few weeks of the year, but keep them on the shelf the rest of the time? Is there some sort of objective significance to these antiquated holidays, or do we just take out of them, what we put into them? Most importantly, should a Christmas devoid of historical veracity retain any value to a modern culture intent on moving past the “primitive” notions of religion and objective morality?
The way I see it, Christmas is an all-or-nothing affair. Either it is the single most important event in the history of mankind, or it is utterly insignificant. Worse than insignificant – an outright lie, and one that has spawned a great many conflicts between families and nations for centuries.
If the Son of God was not literally born as a human baby to a virgin in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, then there is nothing “nice” or “festive” or “spiritual” or “magical” about Christmas. Nothing. If there is no God, and no Jesus, no sin, no forgiveness, no cross, no redemption, no heaven or hell, then Christmas is at best a waste of time, and at worst a dangerous delusion.
Folks who embrace the holiday as a bit of fun or a nice tradition while not believing or accepting the supernatural element within the Christmas story, are actively denying their own ideology – an ideology that says man is his own god, and that individual happiness is the ultimate good. The logical conclusion of such a belief dictates that selflessness and sacrifice have no value of their own. Giving doesn’t make sense. Peace doesn’t make sense. Purity doesn’t make sense. Thankfulness doesn’t make sense. Humility doesn’t make sense. If the Christmas story is a lie, then all of the virtues wrapped up in Christmas are worthless. If it’s not true, then we are fools to celebrate year after year, pouring ourselves glasses of high-sounding ideals from the empty bottle of tradition – as though repetition and ritual can somehow open the cultural floodgate of peace and love while denying the very truths that makes those ideals valuable.
But if the Christmas story is true – really, absolutely, and completely true – then it represents the single most important event in history. If it is true, then it is the story of the God who created everything, seeking reconciliation with a creation that had forgotten Him. If it’s true, it represents a breach in the heavenly siege of Earth, and the end of the dominion of sin and death. If it’s true, then it is the only hope for a human race drowning in violence, pain, and despair.
If it’s true that God sent his son to this world to give gifts unto men, then we should give gifts as well. If it’s true that the Son of God emptied himself of his glory and was born as a servant, then we must serve each other as well. If Christmas is true, there is reason to love, reason to believe, reason to hope, reason to endure. And if it is true, then it means that the same Jesus Christ who was born as a baby in a manger, lived among men, died on a cross, and rose from the dead, will be coming back again one day to judge the world by his righteous standard.
And that’s where you come in. Christmas is not only the pivotal point in human history – what you believe about Christmas will also be the pivotal point in your heart and in your future. You see, that baby born in Bethlehem grew to be a man, and that man claimed to be the Son of God. As C.S. Lewis famously outlined, there are only three possibilities with respect to such a claim: Either Jesus was a liar, or a lunatic, or he was exactly who he claimed to be – the Lord. If he was a liar, then he has no moral authority and cannot be regarded as a great moral teacher. If he was a lunatic, none should heed him as a prophet. But if he is neither of those things, then one must conclude that he is who he says he is.
Likewise, if the Christmas story of the Bible is a fable, a myth passed down by superstitious cultures of old, then it has no value at all, and we would do well to discard it along with any other vestiges of religion and objective morality. After all, it is actively hindering the advancement of mankind by tying future generations to antiquated fantasies that serve only as a faulty foundation to a baseless system of ethics.
But if it’s true, then the world has forever changed, and your heart lies at the point of decision.
Don’t waste another Christmas celebrating niceties that aren’t consistent with your worldview. Life is too short to hold empty traditions. Choose you this day, whom you will serve: the confusion and contortion of the commercial culture, or the real, living, and personal Christ of Christmas.
It is my deepest hope that you will come to know that very Christ as your Savior and Lord, and that from now on you can celebrate Christmas in fullness – not only as a glorious window to miracles past, but also as a promise of his return and our redemption as sons and daughters of God.
A Merry, Merry Christmas to you, from the bottom of my heart.