I can’t believe it is finally here, but it is officially the Christmas season! My presents are wrapped, Christmas music is playing, and I have already had lots and lots (and lots) of cookies… It really is a wonderful time of the year.
As you watch cheery movies and sip your hot chocolate, I hope that you are taking the time to really focus on the birth of Jesus, too. Sometimes I get so caught up in all of those extra things that I miss the chance to come to God’s throne and worship Him in gratitude for the gift of His Son. That is, after all, the real reason for the holiday.
But even as we try to celebrate that special birth, we see all around us people who don’t celebrate Christmas or who are celebrating Santa and family instead of Christ. How should we respond in a culture in which it isn’t even politically correct for storekeepers to say, “Merry Christmas?”
Well, I think there are two important things to keep in mind:
1.The way people talk about, think about, and treat Christmas is a symptom rather than the problem.
In our culture, in our country, among our friends, there is an apathy about the Gospel. There are so many who don’t know that Jesus is Lord. They haven’t accepted that each of us without Christ is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and that only Jesus can save us from that punishment of eternal death (John 3:16). They just don’t think it mattered when Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). Those around us don’t understand the significance of the birth of Jesus or that He was, in fact, God in the flesh, come to be sacrificed for them.
And if they don’t know these things, if they don’t understand them, then of course they won’t treat Christmas as a holy celebration. To them, it isn’t. The problem doesn’t lie in the words they say, but in their unchanged hearts. That is what we should be caring about, that they don’t know Christ as Savior.
2. If people aren’t celebrating Jesus, we shouldn’t be trying to force them to fake it.
We want people to be honest about what they think about Jesus. We don’t need a country full of people who are willing to say they celebrate Christ, but who have no personal relationship with Him. That isn’t our goal! If we demand that people say, “Merry Christmas” when they aren’t reverencing Christ, then we are demanding that they act as hypocrites.
In Matthew 7:21-23, the Bible describes what the scene in Heaven will look like as people who think they have been honoring Christ, but who have never accepted Jesus as their Savior, come before God’s throne. It says,
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
That isn’t our goal for people! We want so much more than for them to say the right words! We want them to actually know God.
Jesus never forced anyone worship Him or follow Him. It’s a decision that each individual needs to make in their heart of hearts. Making that decision means choosing to die to yourself and be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and it isn’t a decision to be made lightly.
But I never answered my original question. How do we respond in a culture that has largely forgotten or rejected Jesus? How do we encourage those around us to make that crucial decision and to meet their Savior?
Well, we have to live lives that reflect the joy, the grace, and the love of God. We have to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a deep, authentic way. And we have to share with others, at every opportunity, “the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
We really do want every single person to recognize Jesus as Lord this Christmas, and I guess I do care if people say “Merry Christmas” for the right reasons, but we want the change to be in people’s hearts, not with their lip service.
So, let’s go out in the world, following Jesus as He works through us to change hearts this Christmas season!