Last week I shared Three Reasons I Delight in Christmas, and I stand by that post. However, that is only one side of the coin. I would suggest that one of the most important words in all of Christendom is ‘balance’. It is a bland word, but it is vital. Christians are called to walked a narrow path, and this is no more so than at Christmas time. Yes, we are to exult in the Saviour’s birth – but we are to do it well and without compromising on the Gospel. There is to be balance to the way we celebrate. So, here is a little bit of balance to the celebratory tone of last week’s post.
I am not a fan of sentimentality at the best of times! But whenever it is sentimentality about the birth of the Saviour of the world, I am nauseated to the ‘n’th degree. The usual culprits for this sentimentality are songs and poems, and predominantly those which are performed as solos. A prime example of this is the song Mary Did You Know? (This has been helpfully combatted by a humorous meme). But really there are many more, and many which are worse.
Now, we have to be careful about divorcing the nativity narratives from their historical realities. Of course, Mary and Joseph’s worlds were rocked – we can only imagine how many late-night conversations it took for them to come to terms with it all. But, we must be so careful with our presentation of Jesus in the midst of this sentimentality. This is the Saviour we are presenting to people; this is God in the flesh; this is the pinnacle of redemptive history; this is a history-altering moment. Do we really want people leaving our carol services thinking about two doting parents?
Sentimentality makes me cringe at Christmas.
At the other end of the scale is materialism, a problem all year round, but particularly pronounced at this time of year. Think about the first question that everyone asks you from Christmas morning onwards. I would suggest that pretty high on the list is ‘what did you get?’ And there I was thinking that this was the season for giving!
More than that, think about the amount of money we spend on our children, family and friends. Why does someone need a fourth new iPhone in three years, whenever there are millions of children without food and water? It is not even just the cost, but also the volume of material things we give and get. Why must we all buy everyone something whenever there are millions of people dying without ever hearing the good news that a Saviour was born?
We get very quickly caught up in our own small world. Materialism at Christmas is rife, and so often rife within the Christian community. We need to think a little bit more biblically about giving and receiving gifts at Christmas.
Materialism makes me cringe at Christmas.
What are we actually celebrating this time of year? Our time is spent shopping, eating, planning, partying, some singing and a lot of watching movies or sleeping. Is this really the in which we should worship our Saviour and celebrate his birth? After all we celebrate his death by gathering around a table, praying, reading, singing and sharing bread and wine together.
In some ways, I think we can see the hand of Screwtape at work in how Christians celebrate Christmas. We have been duped into believing that we are glorifying God, whenever in all reality we are doing no such thing. Instead of communing with God, we are dandering in the other direction and completely oblivious to it. This too makes me cringe.
I do love Christmas, and I enjoy all of the trimmings and trappings. Perhaps, that’s why I cringe so much too. All of what has been said above is what I see myself struggling with year in, year out, as I attempt to celebrate Christmas in a generous but Christian manner. My prayer for you this year is that you will delight in Christmas, but as a Christian you will also cringe. May our cringing produce a better celebration of Christmas, and may our delighting reflect some of the joy which came with that first Christmas!