Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Even though Christmas Day has passed, take some time today to reflect on the gift of Jesus and breathe in Heaven.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration whenQuirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
5 Days until Christmas! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
In our previous blog, we looked at C.S. Lewis’ famous essay, “What Christmas Means to Me.” He challenged the commercialization of Christmas, arguing that it brings far more pain than pleasure.
I want to respond to the four points which Lewis makes -- and contrast them with four truths about the real Christmas.
The first point he makes is that the commercial celebration of Christmas gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. He has a good point. Figuring out exactly the right gift to give a family member or a boss or a fellow co-worker requires enormous mental energy. It is no wonder that one of the most popular of all gifts at Christmas is the ubiquitous gift card (so the recipient can choose -- and pay for -- his or her own gift!).
The second point he makes is that much of the giving in this commercial view of Christmas is involuntary. That is, you can force someone else to give you a quite undeserved and unanticipated gift by forcing upon him or her a quite unprovoked gift of their own! They are then in your debt -- and common courtesy requires the aforementioned victim to reciprocate such an act of “generosity”!
The third aspect of the commercial celebration of Christmas which Lewis would dispense with if he could is that things are given which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets. Such gifts show a complete waste of human ingenuity and skill in producing objects with minimal to no value.
The fourth aspect which Lewis condemns is the nuisance of the whole thing. He suggests that rather than merrymaking or enjoying a religious holiday, this commercial celebration of Christmas causes families to look more like an illness had gone through the house!
Let’s respond to each of these objections -- and notice how the real Christmas stands in contrast to each of them.
1. On the issue of the celebration bringing far more pain than pleasure. True Christianity does teach that the coming of the Messiah into the world would be both a cause of rejoicing among the angelic world and a knife in the heart of the Virgin Mary. The gift God gave involved the painful sacrifice of His Son so that our sins could be righteously forgiven. However, His sacrifice provides salvation for all who believe. Those who are thus redeemed become members of God’s family. And Scripture describes Him as the God “at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11).
2. Lewis criticizes the commercial celebration of Christmas because most of the giving is involuntary. God’s gift of His Son, however, was not forced by anyone. He freely gave His Son as our substitute. And the Son freely gave Himself. Jesus declared, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn. 10:18).
3. Lewis’ third objection to the commercial celebration of Christmas is that things are given as presents which no mortal would ever buy for himself, useless gadgets and novelties. God’s gift of His Son could not have been more practical. Jesus’ coming is described in Isaiah 9 in the following words: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (verse 6) Jesus alone can handle the governing of my life; He is the solution to all my difficulties; He is fully divine, welcoming me as a Father would a son; He gives peace which the world can only pitifully counterfeit. Practical? Nothing in the universe can match the incredible practicality of knowing Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior.
4. Lewis’ fourth and final objection to the commercial celebration of Christmas is all the nuisance. After all, he says, we still have all our ordinary shopping to do. God’s gift to us of His Son was out of love -- and love is the opposite of nuisance. Because of His great love, man is redeemable and can become redeemed, useful, and fulfilled by receiving God’s Christmas gift to us.
The story is told of a little girl at the beginning of the Christmas season. Around her house everything was abuzz with action in preparation for the holidays. It seemed everyone was too busy to spend time with the little girl, and everything she tried to do to gain attention or help only resulted in her being shooed away or reprimanded for "being in the way." As her exhausted mother finally tucked her into bed after a long day, the little girl began to recite her usual bedtime praying of the Lord's Prayer. Being tired of all the bustle and fuss around the Christmas holiday, the little girl prayed; ". . . and forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us!"
Let’s celebrate God’s giving His Son for us!
Contributed by Dr. Larry Dixon, Professor of Theology at CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
C.S. Lewis wrote an essay years ago which we want to consider in two blogs. Our first blog is his essay; our second blog will be responding to some of the points he makes in his essay. Lewis writes,
“Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business. I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.
1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.
2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?
3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?
4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it. We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.”
From God in the dock—Essays on Theology and Ethics by C. S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman's Publishing Co. © 1970 The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, first appearing December, 1957
Contributed by Dr. Larry Dixon, Professor of Theology at CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”