“Keep Christ in Christmas!” It’s that time of year again, and we’ve all seen the ubiquitous slogan posted on Facebook, plastered on signs, and pinned on lapels. And I’m all for it.
Christmas is, after all, when we as Christians celebrate and give thanks for the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind: A Savior – a baby born, moist and messy, writhing and wrinkly, unknown and unnoticed, save a few smelly shepherd boys. This baby, born in the humble home of livestock and placed in a feeding trough for the same, was given the name Immanuel, God with us.
He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man, and when the time had come, He gave His life for those lost in sin– for you, and for me. But the Greatest Christmas Gift ever given didn’t stay in the grave for long! Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, was raised to new life so the rebels could become the redeemed.
This is the Good News. This is the Gospel. This is the grace of God, chosen from the before the foundation of the world, and now revealed. This is what Christmas is all about. And this is why Christ must be kept in Christmas.
But how do we keep Christ in Christmas? How we do this is tantamount to why we do this. There’s no shortage of suggestions on how we can ensure Christ remains front and center of the Christmas holiday, and, in and of themselves, they aren’t bad. Feed the hungry, forgive those who’ve wronged you, do unto others, we’re told. All scriptural; all an expression of Christ’s love.
Yet such worthy pursuits are only effects of keeping Christ in Christmas, not the actual keeping thereof. Without the weight and glory of the Gospel proclamation, these things become nothing more than works – filthy rags tossed to an unclean world desperately in need of garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. As Christ followers, we perform good works for more than the Gospel’s sake, but never for less.
Social action that relieves earthly suffering is popular in today’s culture, and indeed, it was important to Jesus, as well. “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone,” Martin Luther famously and accurately said. Christians can and ought to bring positive influence to public life. Indeed, religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).
But non-Christians engage in good works and social activities ultimately ordained by God, too. To truly keep Christ in Christmas, we must stay centered on the Gospel that initiates social activism, not the gospel of social activism itself. “Who can add to Christmas?” Corrie Ten Boom once said, “The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son.“
This Christmas, let’s focus on alleviating temporal suffering while pointing to the Relief of all eternal suffering. It’s the essence of Jesus for His followers to undertake acts of compassion, but it’s easy to slip into a quietist mindset, performing works of cultural change apart from the work of Christ, hoping someone sees God in the goodness.
But though Jesus fed the hungry, forgave the guilty, welcomed the unwanted, and loved His enemies, He never lost His focus on proclaiming the Good News. What would Jesus do to keep Christ in Christmas? Let’s look at what Jesus did, then go and do likewise.
Stuart Briscoe put it this way, “The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ… The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.” This year, let’s keep the Spirit of Christ in Christmas.
In His name and for His glory,