Merry Christmas or the Gospel

John Telgren

I remember when no one ever had to worry about saying, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" to people. But now, because the name has "Christ" in it, the politically correct phrase is, "Happy Holidays." More and more people in Christendom are reacting negatively to this. Even those who have never participated in Christmas as a religious holiday because it is man-made and never commanded by God find the move to remove the name "Christ" out of Christmas disconcerting. Many are saying, "Merry Christmas" with more passion than ever before, including those who were ambivalent about it in years past.

But as I step back and look at the bigger picture, a picture that is much larger and older than this country, I realize that God does not call us to be able to say, "Merry Christmas." Being able to say Merry Christmas has very little to do with our God-given purpose on this earth. That phrase is not in scripture, and I am not sure that even the sentiment is. This holiday is filled with so many worldly trappings, whether it is greed, consumerism, gluttony, etc., that there is no "Christ" in it. On the other hand, there are those who do some wonderful things in the name of Christ around the holidays as well.

But I find myself asking, what does Christ call the church to do? If we are Christ's church, then we will follow his example even during these man-made holidays with religious dress. There is a man-made religious holiday on the Jewish Calendar that you will not find it in your Old Testament because God never commanded it. It commemorates the purification and rededication of the temple during the intertestamental period. The Temple was overtaken by the pagan ruler, Antiocus Epiphanes, who defiled it with pagan worship. Judas Maccabees revolted, retook the temple, consecrated and rededicated it in 164 A.D. There is a holiday to commemorate this that has many cultural trappings in it like Christmas does. It is called, "Hannukah," which means, "dedication" in Hebrew. While this is not in the Old Testament, there is a mention of it in the New Testament (John 10:22-42).

How did Jesus deal with this holiday? Jesus neither ignores it nor does he boycott and speak out against it. Instead, he attended the festival and used it as an opportunity to teach important truths about himself as the Son of God that gives eternal life. It was not a well-received message according to the text, but it was offered nevertheless.

This reminds us that we shouldn't just uncritically "go with the flow" of the world. We have been set apart for God's purposes, which is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. This means that we ought always to be looking for opportunities to use what is going on around us as a ministry opportunity as Jesus did.

So, instead of uncritically going with the flow of the holidays, why not ask your family and friends, "Do you know WHY Jesus was born?" From that, you can share the Gospel message concerning the identity of Christ, sin, the cross, the resurrection, and the call of God through Christ. This is what we should be passionate about more than being able to say, "Merry Christmas."