John P. Galbraith
“Christmas in liberal America,” we were told last year, “is no longer the dogmatic, denominational, ecclesiastical institution it used to be and, alas, still is in many lands that are drenched with bigotry and blood. An amazing and increasing number of Christians no longer believe in the supernaturalness of Jesus’ birth or in the divinity of his person. He is to them no longer ‘Christ the Lord’ but simply the Man of Nazareth. They believe only in the exalted humanness of his person and follow him because of the universal humanness of his teaching.…” This is the unprejudiced, impersonal observation of a Jewish rabbi, published in a pre-Christmas issue of The Christian Century a year ago. It constitutes his justification for the celebration of Christmas by adherents of the Jewish faith. In substances he says that the Jew may celebrate “Christmas” because it no longer commemorates the birth of the Messiah, the Christ. In short, mayhem has been committed upon the word “Christmas.”
This is only too true. Gifts are exchanged by anyone and everyone, with little or no thought of those gifts as reminders of God’s unspeakable gift—the Christ—to a sin-cursed and redemption-needing world. Tinsel and ornaments are draped on evergreen trees to aid in creating a joyous festive spirit, without much consideration of the joyful news that there is “born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord,” in whom to believe is everlasting life. So-called “Christmas cards” are sent and received which have nothing to do with Christ, but on the other hand are decorated with anything from Scotties with red bows around their necks to wreaths of holly which have their decorative origin in the pagan Roman Saturnalia. Gifts are ornamented with stickers depicting a mythical Santa Claus trying to climb down a dirty and undersized chimney. And ministers of varying shades of theological beliefs, feeling that they must say something about Jesus, teach that He merely came to “demonstrate the supreme pathway of life.” Christ has indeed been taken out of Christmas.
We would do well to take stock of ourselves to discover to what extent we participate in depriving Christmas of its Messianic content. Do we neglect to teach our children that the reason we give and receive gifts at this season is that God gave the Babe to the world that He might later die for the sins of the world? Do we forget to explain that the happiness and jollity reflected by the colorful decorations is based on the kindness of God in sending us the Saviour? Or do we take care to send Christmas cards which tell about Christ? Do we seal our gifts which are opened on Christmas Day with stickers which focus the thoughts upon Christ on this glorious day? And do we support our pastor as he preaches a Christmas sermon about One whose name should be called Jesus for the reason that He would save His people from their sins?
To us as individual Christians, to us as a church of Jesus Christ, has been committed the joyous task of being His witnesses. At this season when most of the people in the world will have the name of Christ on their lips as they say, “Merry Christmas!” let us with concerted and determined effort strive to show them what the word “Christ” means in “Christmas.” Let us ourselves put the Christ in “Christmas,” and our joy shall be full!
© 2023 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church