• Jim Farrell

Christmas Is Celebrated Well When...

As the celebration of Christmas 2021 draws near, I remembered the other day that I made a note around this time last year, of a thought I had that continues to warrant consideration. That thought is this: Christmas is celebrated well, not merely when certain traditions are practiced, but when the Gospel truth of God incarnate in Jesus is believed and practiced.

Most people can probably make a list of things and/or activities that for them are “necessary” as regards the celebration of Christmas. A particular ornament must be on the tree—perhaps a particular Christmas tree topper… Attending a production of the Nutcracker… The family driving around the neighborhood to see the lights… Baking a special cookie that grandma made… Serving a certain Christmas dinner menu… Family attending the early (or late) Christmas Eve service at church… For some people, Christmas is not Christmas unless or until these particular things or activities are part of the celebration.

There is certainly nothing wrong with Christmas traditions. As a matter of fact, it’s rather special that certain things are observed that have been part of family celebrations for generations. A fruitcake! An annual Christmas concert! A special recipe of wassail! A visit to Santa (with the mandatory picture, of course)!

Trouble happens as regards those traditions when the inclusion or exclusion of them makes or breaks Christmas. We miss the point when particular ways of celebrating become the main thing, or when the absence of certain things means for us that Christmas has been wronged. How many a personal struggle or family fight has ensued and perhaps even ruined Christmas because the things we deemed necessary to its rightful celebration were either missed,or messed-up.

This year, as Christmas approached, I decided to share this thought that came to me after Christmas last year: Christmas is celebrated well not merely when certain traditions are practiced but when the Gospel truth of God incarnate in Jesus is believed and practiced.

Amidst all of that which we want to include in Christmas, or even insist must be part of Christmas, don’t miss Jesus, the Christ. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) This is Christmas! God giving Jesus is at the core of Christmas! The value of any other Christmas thing or activity is rightly determined, observed, and evaluated by how they acclaim this: today a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord.

Perhaps a good question to be asked as regards our celebrations of Christmas is this: how is the Gospel truth of God incarnate in Jesus believed and practiced? Attending the annual Christmas Eve service might look right, but is it a habit thing, or a heart thing? Are you in it because it’s what is always done on Christmas Eve? Or are you in it because Jesus is the Anointed One of God—the King of kings and Lord of lords, who is to be worshipped and adored! Is giving gifts a habit or a heart thing? Are they an expression of the greatest gift of the Savior Jesus given to save God’s people from their sin? When the celebrations of Christmas are over - dinners done, gifts opened, and decorations put away - are you still in, following Jesus, living a holy life, sharing gospel truth?

Charles Dickens closes A Christmas Carol with a report that Ebenezer Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” If you profess faith in Jesus, you, by God’s saving love, mercy, and grace, possess the knowledge - knowledge of the Savior who has come, who is Christ the Lord. A most blessed outcome of this knowledge is you know how to keep Christmas well because you know that Christmas is Jesus - Immanuel - God with us! Shout it! Celebrate it! Live it well!

And the journey continues,

Pastor Jim

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