In Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, the central figure, Ebenezer Scrooge, has two attitudes toward Christmas – bah humbug and joyous generosity. Undoubtedly, he is more famous (or rather infamous) for his former attitude.
It appears to me that this bah humbug attitude, exemplified by Scrooge, is the one adopted by many people today with regard to Christmas – especially Christians!
Like Scrooge himself, this group is made up largely of older people who hitch themselves to the bah humbug band wagon. You know who I am talking about. Those older people who hate the fact that it gets dark early, are afraid of slipping on the icy pavements, resent the amount of money spent on unnecessary things and detest the Christmas music being played in November (maybe because they have heard it so many Novembers in a row).
Now, before we get all high and mighty let’s acknowledge (well, in my opinion anyway) that older people have some credence for their Scrooge mentality. The dark is frightening, a 75 year old broken leg takes a bit longer to heal, instead of a £5 toy children now need a £500 mobile phone and there aren’t that many new Christmas songs written.
However, we must always guard against bitterness and hatred when it comes to things that aren’t exactly to our liking.
It cannot be denied that ‘super-spiritual’ Christians often join these older people – you know the type. They say:
“Christmas is a marketing gimmick.”
“Trees are a pagan alter.”
“Materialism is the Demon Screwtape’s master plan.”
“There is no textual evidence that there were three wise men (so don’t send me a Christmas card with three wise men on it, or it is going straight into the bin).”
However, these ‘super-spiritual’ Christians do not have so much credence for their bah humbug attitude. The only difficultly is that often I find myself in their camp. In fact, I think that all Christians find themselves with this bah humbug attitude about Christmas from time to time.
Look at my last few posts. I have used these sentences:
“I assure you that if read this book will guide our thoughts – at this most materialistic time of the year – toward the real gift that should be celebrated – King Jesus.” – In Christmas Reading.
“As the advent season begins, this truth portrayed in the announcement by Gabriel – God is at work – must not be forgotten.” – In Advent: Announcement.
“As we edge ever closer to the 25th December, and celebrate ‘Christmas’, let us take some time to pause and consider Jesus, the light of the world.” – In Christmas, Fireworks and Jesus.
“So this Christmas as you enjoy Elf (perhaps even more than once as I plan to), by all means revel in this strange man from the North Pole that rescued Christmas. But, don’t stop there. Remember, the incarnation.” – In Elf: The Incarnation?
There we go. At times, in four separate posts, I have accused Christians of materialism, an empty celebration, forgetfulness about the real meaning behind Christmas and a fascination with Elf that eclipses Jesus. While that has not been the thrust of the post, this bah humbug attitude has reared its ugly head.
I would dare say that this reflects my own heart – the traps I walk into and the guilt I feel. This has led me to ask the question – Am I right? Are there elements of Christmas that need to be tackled? Should I forgo Christmas? Should I try to make others forgo Christmas? Does this mean that Ebenezer Scrooge is a Christian when it comes to his bah humbug attitude to Christmas?
I don’t think so (reserving judgement on Scrooge!).
Something which has struck me as I have studied and preached the book of Ecclesiastes is that even though the Preacher is adamant that life is meaningless, vain, futile, transitory, fleeting and elusive – there is still joy to be had! More than that, joy is to be commanded.
Here is how the Preacher says it:
Ecc. 2:26 – For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…
Ecc. 3:12 – I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live…
Ecc. 5:20 –God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart…
Ecc. 7:14 – In the day of prosperity be joyful…
Ecc. 8:15 – And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful…
Ecc. 9:7 – Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do…
There is joy to be had, and it should be embraced whole heartedly. This is Ebenezer Scrooge’s attitude toward Christmas at the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – and perhaps this is the Christian attitude that Scrooge exudes.
Depending on your opinion about dark nights and Christmas music in November, there isn’t a more joyful time than Christmas.
So, perhaps, like me you sit and think,
‘Is this ok?’
‘Are Christians being faithful if they celebrate Christmas with others who don’t appreciate the real meaning?’
‘Am I breaking a commandment by putting up a Christmas tree in my house?’
‘Is buying a load of chocolate for people who don’t really need it justifiable?’
‘Are there no nativity scenes with more than three wise men?’
If you are asking yourselves these questions – then listen to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes – enjoy the good things of life with the knowledge of the best thing in life. John Piper begins, and argues throughout, his book Desiring God by saying ‘Happiness is what God commands’ (pg. 9). In fact, he quotes Jeremy Taylor, who says ‘God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy’.
Let us listen to this advice, and let us not ignore God’s good gifts – lights, trees, presents, chocolates, turkey, music and carol singing – which only magnify his greatest gift. Christmas is a time to be enjoyed – so let us celebrate it as such.
This post benefited from Kevin DeYoung’s Christmas Christian Grinches. If you found this helpful, read his too.