As a young father, my mind is racing to ensure my wife and I help create an atmosphere by where our daughter is able to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, while never feeling deprived of the fun aspects of Christmas. This is part 1 of a discussion on the sacred and secular struggle many Christian households face during Christmas. My goal isn’t to condemn secular traditions or to ban certain behavior; rather, to ensure we are thinking about the impact some of our secular traditions have on our spiritual lives.
Christmas is a time of BELIEF and HOPE. If you were to ask most Christians what Christmas truly means, I would think most would give you an answer regarding Jesus and how he came to this earth as a baby. It’s the result of amazing prophecy fulfillment, and the anchor to our spiritual hope. The question that remains, however, is do we actually focus on the spiritual (what we believe: Jesus) and add the secular (Santa, Elf on the Shelf…etc), or do we focus on the secular and add the spiritual?
Let’s first define what we believe. Isaiah prophesied the coming of a Saviour about 700 years before Jesus was born…
“…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (meaning God with us).”[i]
That puts a new perspective on the first few verses of Matthew’s gospel. The listing of generations not only proves Jesus can be traced back to Abraham, but that there were so many generations waiting for Isaiah’s words to come true.
Their HOPE was built on their BELIEF, and their BELIEF was built on the UNKNOWN. Their unknown, however, wasn’t a question of IF, rather, the unknown of WHEN and HOW.
Our belief today stems from this fulfillment of prophecy, but extends far beyond. Jesus was born, he taught, lived on the earth and took all of our sin, pain and grief to the cross with Him. Fortunately for us, our Christian hope even extends beyond that. Our hope isn’t built on a man who was MARTYRED, or SELFLESS, had great LEADERSHIP, or even had great IMPACT. Jesus, and many other spiritual leaders did all of those things. Our hope today is built on NEW LIFE! The reason that Christianity spread like wild fire was because Christ conquered death and rose from the grave! The message that was being proclaimed was:
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”[ii]
This is the same message for today, and our hope and belief extend to our future eternal life with God. It’s a HOPE like no other religion – a hope of LIFE!
Our HOPE is built on our BELIEF, and our BELIEF is built on the UNKNOWN. Just like those before us, our unknown isn’t a question of IF; rather, the unknown of WHEN and HOW.
We need to focus on our Christian HOPE. In a world where “spiritual belief” seems to be at an all-time low, are we downplaying our unique HOPE if we allow ourselves to focus on anything else? Are we being strategic enough to show others our Christian HOPE? Are we trying to spiritualize the secular, so we don’t feel bad if we don’t focus on the spiritual? Are we making more excuses as we read this?
Sometimes I think we try to navigate through the secular Christmas (ie. Santa) and try to add our spiritual Christmas (ie. Christ) so that we keep ourselves in check. For example, we may have a manger with Santa bowing down to Jesus. While we have good intentions, I think we may be missing the mark. You may laugh when I say this but, “I’m not trying to get Santa saved!” It doesn’t matter if Santa, a make-believe secular Christmas character, is bowing to Jesus. If we’re trying to get Santa saved, we’re focusing on the wrong things. We need to focus on the available HOPE that is much bigger than anything secular Christmas could ever offer! Paul told us:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”[iii]
Because we have a HOPE like no other, we need to live in the world, but not allow the world to shape us. The challenge then, is to focus on God’s will for us – “what is good and acceptable and perfect.” That doesn’t necessarily mean to stop doing everything secular; we live in a secular world and can’t avoid that.
The challenge is to live in a secular world, but shine with HOPE; with Christ at the center, not Santa.
Connect the dots.
Ever draw a connect the dots picture? There are a series of dots with numbers and if you connect each dot in sequence with a line, a picture is revealed. Here’s the question I have for you:
If you were to connect the dots of your Christmas season (ie. Christmas activities, outings, parties, traditions, church events, family gatherings, etc…), what would your final picture look like?
The answer to that question should tell you what the focus of your Christmas is. Whatever the answer may be, that’s the answer your household will see.
If you see CHRIST, your household will see CHRIST, and deicide whether or not to believe. If you see SANTA, your household will see SANTA, and decide whether or not to believe. Nothing is for certain, but the focus will always be seen.
The scary part, and we will continue with this in the rest of the series, is if we focus on Santa, our belief becomes about Santa and we actually allow him to even have some godly attributes. This of course is dramatically different if Christ is our focus.
With that said, I don’t have all the answers as to how this is done correctly. What I do know, is that together, with God’s help, we can live the life He has called us to live!
Your turn! How are you strategic about your Christian HOPE during Christmas? Do you think secular Christmas has changed in 30 years? How does that impact your Christian HOPE?
[i] Isaiah 7:14, ESV.
[ii] Romans 8:11, ESV.
[iii] Romans 12:2, ESV.