There’s a TV commercial in which an obviously miserable person says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” While that commercial may appear year round, I associate it most with the holiday season.
For me that’s Halloween to Easter or shortly thereafter, with the most intense feeding frenzy occurring from Thanksgiving to Christmas (although I intensively graze pretty much year round).
Amidst the feasting associated with Christmas and Easter, many people will consume a lot of misinformation about their historical meaning because we know that these holidays may be the only time they’re open to the message of God’s love. And so, in the name of increasing palatability in evangelism, we tend to put as much icing on the gospel as we put on Christmas cookies.
Concentrating on the newborn baby makes this much easier than presenting the truth that Jesus grew up to die for our sins – the very reason for which he was born (Romans 6: 23; Hebrews 9: 22, 14; 1 Peter 2: 22-24; Galatians 4: 4, 5 – Has anyone else noticed that Galatians 4: 4, 5 is one of the few, if not the only reference to Jesus’ birth in the letters written to Christians? Basically, Jesus focused on his purpose for coming rather than his birth and so does the Bible – Luke 2: 49; 9: 51; 19: 10; Matthew 20: 28).
While Jesus’ birth was more openly celebrated by angels than his resurrection (Luke 2: 8-14; 24: 1-8), remember there’s more joy in heaven when one sinner repents than when it’s remembered that there were 99 who didn’t need to repent (Luke 15: 3-7). So, we bring God great joy when we lead others to Christ. This also is evident in Jesus’ joyful attitude in being crucified to bring salvation to men (Hebrews 12: 2; 10: 1-7). That’s all the sugar-coating the gospel message needs, if it really needs anything.
God’s love was expressed on the cross – the avenue through which we can avoid condemnation because Jesus took our punishment for us (John 3: 16, 17; Isaiah 53: 3-6; Romans 8: 1-4). Jesus’ birth was but a part of God’s plan that’d been initiated an eternity before Jesus was born (Ephesians 1: 3-10). Consequently, the good news of Christmas is actually in the message of the cross because that’s the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1: 16; 1 Corinthians 1: 18; 2: 2; Galatians 6: 14). That’s why Paul’s aim was to only preach Christ and him crucified. It is the message of the cross that brings reconciliation – peace on earth among men as a by-product of peace with God (Ephesians 2: 13-18; Colossians 1: 19-23).
Jesus’ death on the cross doesn’t relieve us of any responsibility. Just because he did what we couldn’t do in paying the price for our sins doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us to do.
God accepts only those who do what’s right (Acts 10: 34, 35). When the heavenly host celebrated Jesus’ birth, their song was, “on earth peace to men (this includes all humankind) on whom his favor rests.” So, when we ask God for peace on earth, we must recognize that it comes to those who are in his favor – those who won’t be condemned because they’re “in Christ Jesus.”
Among other things, doing what’s right to have his favor rest on us includes telling the whole story of God’s love and how we accept it. So, during this Christmas season, celebrate the birth with appropriate gusto remembering also to tell others with the same joy about how God sends peace through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus so they can digest the whole thing and you will maintain your blamelessness (Acts 20: 24, 26, 27).
Again, Jesus’ birthday was celebrated more openly than his death, burial, and resurrection at the time of their occurrences. Without casting aspersions on the concept of Christmas celebrations and although there’re no Biblical guidelines for celebrating Christmas, there are guidelines for celebrating, even participating in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as we’re united with him in baptism (Romans 6: 1-8; Colossians 2: 11-14; Galatians 2: 20–3: 1; 5: 24) and as we partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday as did the early church (1 Corinthians 11; 23-32; Acts 20: 5-7 – note that they waited a week to meet with the church when they came together to break bread).
We’ve gotta swallow the whole thing to be in God’s favor. Do you remember Jesus’ sacrifice year round with equal emphasis during the season of celebrating his birth? Have you been crucified with Christ?
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ