Maybe we’ve been getting this “Keep Christ in Christmas” thing all wrong

Maybe we’ve been getting this “Keep Christ in Christmas” thing all wrong.

For several years, our church had an annual December activity called “The Birthday Party for Jesus.” Like many birthday parties, there were crafts and games, even a cake and we sang “Happy Birthday.”  How weird is that?  Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun event. As one of the people responsible for putting it on, I understand why we did it. But is that what it means to “keep Christ in Christmas?”

What do you think Jesus would have thought about having a birthday party? Birthday celebrations for commoners are a fairly modern creation; there are no birthday parties in the Bible. We don’t know when he was born because it wasn’t recorded. The Bible does tell us when to celebrate the Passover (which we don’t do), on the 15th day of the month of Nisan.

Jesus told us to do a lot of things, but celebrating his birthday was not one of them. Jesus told us to remember him when we break bread and share wine together. That sounds a lot more like a secular Christmas celebration than a religious one.

So then, why DOES the Bible tell us about Jesus’s birth? It mostly seems to be about laying out evidence for the Jews of the time that Jesus checked all the boxes of prophecies surrounding the Messiah:

  • Born of a virgin – check
  • From Bethlehem – check
  • Line of David – check

But where did Matthew and Luke get their information? Did they interview Mary?  Did they happen upon the shepherds forty years later? That seems unlikely.

If Jesus is the reason for the season, then maybe during this season, instead of fighting over greetings and salutations, instead of birthday cakes and nativity scenes, we should do the things that Jesus did actually tell us to do. Things like feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick and marginalized. This morning I was reminded of Leo Tolstoy’s short story about Martin the Cobbler.

Maybe, for us, the Christmas story is a reminder that when God comes to be with us, God is hungry, a stranger denied shelter, naked. When God enters our space, it is as a marginalized person.

“Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” are meant to desecularize Christmas, but I love that Christmas is almost entirely a secular, cultural holiday.  One of my neighbors has an inflatable Millennium Falcon in their yard. Does that mean that they think Han Solo is the reason for the season? Probably not any more than my family thinks Paw Patrol or pirates are the reason for the season (we have an eclectic array of inflatables in our yard).

Maybe in the run up to Christmas (Advent), Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. Maybe this season is about the things all humanity is seeking: hope, love, joy, and peace. 

Maybe Christmas is a gift that we can give to the world to enjoy and celebrate in whatever way they want. 

Maybe in sharing Christmas with the world, we can find the Christ who gave his life for the world.

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