Another Christmas season has arrived and will soon pass. Despite our weak protestations to hold onto Christmas for the twelve days regaled in song, the world will move quickly on to its next distraction from its sin and sorrows. And we, for all our clamoring to “keep Christ in Christmas,” will take our cues from the Christ-less world around us even though we have a strong and nagging sense that we should resist them and somehow find a way to keep Christ in the center of things.
We see “keeping Christ” – both keeping Him in Christmas and keeping Him first in our lives when it isn’t Christmas – as the answer to the troubles of our broken world and troubled lives. Yet this “keeping Christ” desire of ours is much more of a problem than a solution.
As a parish pastor, I learned to set aside the worldly distractions that stripped Christmas of Christ. There was simply far too much to do that was centered in Christ to allow the secular intrusions to displace the Christ Child. But now, as a pastor serving outside of a parish, those familiar distractions tempt me to embrace the nostalgic notions of Christmas as it is celebrated in story and song.
But, just as I have no services to plan, sermons to prepare, and people to serve in order to compel me to “keep Christ in Christmas,” there is no going back to Christmas as it once was, the Christmases of long, long ago.
This Christmas season finds my wife and me living in a community that is not our home, distant from family and friends, and worshipping with people who are, for the most part, strangers to us. In our struggle to celebrate Christmas in the midst of our new circumstances, I have come to realize that our efforts to “keep Christ in Christmas” are just as sadly foolish as celebrating a Christ-less Christmas with the world.
Sad and foolish because Christ was never meant to be kept, especially in Christmas. Yet it is at Christmas when we find ourselves most intent on this sinful, harmful keeping of Christ in our keeping Him to ourselves, keeping our mouths shut, keeping the uneasy peace with our nonchurched friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors.
Christmas is our annual reminder and celebration that Jesus was born into our world not to be kept, but to be given. Given to us for our salvation. Given to the world as the means to “peace on earth, good will to men.” We are not called to keep Christ in Christmas, but to use our world’s fleeting pause at Christmas to give people the Good News that Christ has given Himself for them.
No matter how joyful or joyless, full or empty, rich or poor it happens to be, Christmas is not for us to keep Christ but for us to share Him with others – and for Him to keep us in His love and grace
Questions to consider:
- How can I keep things about Christ without keeping Christ to myself?
- In what ways have I kept Christ from others by keeping Him to myself?
- Which nonchurched people has the Lord placed into my life in order that I may share Him with them?