In his book Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller writes that every December there are two very different celebrations going on - each observed by millions of people at the same time.
Around the world there are those of us who see in Christmas an opportunity to rejoice in the incarnation, that God became human in Jesus Christ! At the same time, there are others who may not hold to Christian faith, but still appreciate time to gather with family and friends, to give gifts to one another as well as those in need.
The reality of these two very different celebrations brings discomfort for many Christians who sense a “war on Christmas” as the background music in stores and restaurants shifts from “Joy to the World” to “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.” At the same time, however, nonreligious people can’t help but feel the older meaning of Christmas continues to pop up here and there, sometimes when it’s least expected!
One thing is certain: Christmas - whatever anyone thinks of it - isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Instead of feeling disheartened that others around us don’t share our faith and that there’s some sort of plan to do away with the holiday altogether, perhaps we should see Christmas as a God-given opportunity to share the good news! Tim Keller explains:
The emphasis on light in darkness comes from the Christian belief that the world’s hope comes from outside of it. The giving of gifts is a natural response to Jesus’ stupendous act of self-giving, when he laid aside his glory and was born into the human race. The concern for the needy recalls that the Son of God was born not into an aristocratic family but into a poor one. The Lord of the universe identified with the least and the most excluded of the human race.
These are powerful themes, but every one of them is a two-edged sword. Jesus comes as the Light because we are too spiritually blind to find our own way. Jesus became mortal and died because we are too morally ruined to be pardoned any other way. Jesus gave himself to us, and so we must give ourselves wholly to him… Christmas, like God himself, is both more wondrous and more threatening that we imagine.
If your Christmas get-togethers this week will be at all like mine, there will be people present in the same place engaged in these two different celebrations. For some it’ll be a holiday, for others a holy day.
So, may it be an opportunity to share “the reason for the hope we have.”
It’s not likely you could simply read the words I’ve written or quoted here. I certainly won’t! But I do trust that for each of us, God’s Spirit can give us the words. Why? Because he’s already given us The Word, the One who offers the whole world hope, peace, joy, and love.