An old legend tells that Satan and his demons once threw a Christmas party for themselves. As the party was ending and the demons were heading out to resume their worldwide activity, one demon jokingly said to Satan, “Merry Christmas, your majesty.” To that, Satan replied, “Yes, help the world keep it merry because if they ever get serious about it we’ll all be in trouble.”
This world certainly does make it hard to get serious about Christmas. How can we keep our focus on the holiday’s important things when we are bombarded at every turn with its silly things? I’ve never heard it put any better than Keith Ogden, the pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, North Carolina, put it. He called the Christmas holiday a “mixture of the reasonable with the ridiculous” and said, “Christmas today is a mixture of the sacred with the secular, the holy with the common, the holiday with the holy day, the babe in a manger with the elf in a sleigh, the shepherds in the field, watching their sheep with reindeer that know how to fly.”
And so, in these days leading up to Christmas, I think it would be good for us to identify a few things that we should remember this Christmas. These are things that will help us celebrate the birth of Christ in a manner that is pleasing to Him. There’s nothing wrong with having Christmas, but we need to have it the right way.
The first thing we should remember is: Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas isn’t about: Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, the grinch, Christmas trees, presents, eggnog, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, or Mariah Carey. It’s about Jesus! You can’t even spell the word “Christmas” without starting with the name “Christ.” Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth.
I once read about a family who celebrated Christmas each year by actually throwing a birthday party for Jesus. They would go so far as to set an extra chair at the table as a reminder of Christ’s presence at the party. The mother would fix a cake, complete with candles, and the whole family would sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. One year a visitor said to the family’s five-year old daughter, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” The little girl replied, “No, but then it’s not my birthday.” We need more of that attitude today.
A second thing we should remember is: It is more blessed to give than to receive. In Acts 20:35, Paul says to the pastors of Ephesus: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
If your whole idea of Christmas centers around you receiving, you are missing the point of the holiday. What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You see, the baby Jesus lying in that manger on that night so long ago was a gift to the world. And God expects those of us who follow Jesus to be givers.
A third thing we should remember is: Even in our giving, we can cross the line into sin. Colossians 3:17 says: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Did you know that Jesus wants to be the Lord of your Christmas shopping? He doesn’t want you to buy anything that is contrary to His will. Even if an item is on clearance at a 90% discount, you’d better consult the Lord before buying it. Jesus doesn’t mind you buying gifts for others, but He does want you to filter every purchase through His will.
What passes for discerning giving these days was on display at a Wal-Mart in Long Island, New York, a few years ago. In the early morning hours of the Friday after Thanksgiving, approximately 2,000 shoppers gathered outside the doors of the mall where the Wal-Mart was located. When a thirty-four-year old male employee opened the store’s doors, he was immediately knocked to the ground by the onrushing crowd. The force of the crowd was so great that a metal portion of the door frame was crumpled like an accordion. In all the chaos, no one cared that the employee couldn’t get up, and so they just kept stepping all over him. Even when some of the other employees tried to fight their way through the crowd to help their coworker, they were knocked down and trampled upon as well. After the stampede was over, the worker was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead around 6:00 a.m. Tell me, do you think Jesus is pleased that such crazed behavior is associated with the season of His birth?
The fourth thing we should remember is: We should always do our part to live peaceably with others. A good text here is Romans 12:18, which says: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Isn’t it sad that Christmas oftentimes brings out the worst in people? This is especially true with families.
Family members get mad over the stupidest things at Christmastime. Wars break out over the holiday schedules of events! Dad wants the whole family to get together for a big meal on Christmas Eve, but his daughter-in-law would rather take the grandkids to a Christmas Eve candlelight service at her church. One grandma wants everybody at her place at one o’clock on Christmas day, but the other grandma wants everybody at her place at two o’clock. The wife’s family always opened their presents on Christmas Eve, and that’s how she wants to raise her kids, but her husband’s family always opened their presents on Christmas day. Two of the grandkids are in one church’s Christmas play but the other grandkid is in another church’s play, and both plays start at seven o’clock on the Sunday night before Christmas. Decisions, decisions! To further complicate matters, if your family has been touched by divorce, you can multiply every holiday event by at least two.
During all of this family turmoil you would do well to keep in mind what those angels said to those shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth: “Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.” You say, “But I wanted a pumpkin pie instead of a pecan pie.” Get over it. “But I wanted Levis instead of Wranglers.” Get over it. “But I wanted a real tree instead of an artificial one.” Get over it. It’s Christmas! We’re supposed to be celebrating the fact that God took human flesh upon Himself and was born into this world as a baby so that He could grow up and die for our sins to afford us the opportunity to spend all eternity with Him. It’s not a time for arguing and petty bickering. It’s not a time to demand your way and ignore the feelings of others. It’s a time of doing your part to live peaceably with others. Here’s a good saying that can help you this Christmas: “Blessed are the flexible for they will get along.” Please put that one to use this season, and thank me later. And in the meantime, Merry Christmas!