Another Christmas has come and gone! Trees and decorations have been put up for another year. Travelers have returned home from their holiday trips. Merchants are taking stock of the bonanza they enjoyed during this season of frenzied spending. People are returning to their normal “grind” in life. Some are breathing a sigh of relief that it is now over. Others live on the adrenalin created by the joy and good will that is characteristic of the season. Like so many people, I enjoy the music, beauty, spirit of joy and fellowship of this time of year.
As with others in recent years, this Christmas has not been without controversy. A segment of our society that opposes any public display of religion has been very vocal in their objection to references to Christ on public property. People on both sides of the issue have been guilty of making inconsistent and unsubstantiated remarks. I suppose the controversy will continue in one form or another throughout the year and will heat up again this time next year.
I am one who thoroughly enjoys this time of year as a national holiday, but honesty with the Scriptures brings me to the conclusion that God never intended for man to celebrate the birth of Christ as a religious observance. Without a doubt, Christ was miraculously conceived in the womb of Mary and was born of this godly virgin (Matt. 1:20-25). He is God (Deity) become flesh, i.e., human (John 1:1, 14). I am grateful that Deity had such vast love and interest in man to come to this earth in human form (Phil. 2:5-8). However, there is no authorization in the Bible for man to observe His entry into the world as a religious festival. We should be grateful for Christ’s coming in the flesh, but never forget that He did so in order to die on behalf of man who is powerless to deliver himself from sin (Lk. 19:10; Rom. 5:8). His death made it possible for every obedient person to be saved (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21). Isn’t that marvelous? Though we are not instructed in the Bible to observe Christ’s birth as a religious rite, there is biblical authorization for us to remember His sacrificial death on the cross every first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). I count it a privilege and a joy to be associated with a group of God’s people who observe the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, even when it falls on Dec. 25. According to the inspired writer, Paul, the unleavened bread represents the body of Jesus while the fruit of the vine represents His blood (1 Cor. 11:23-25; cf. Matt. 26:26-28).
It was God’s providence that brought Joseph and Mary to the village of Bethlehem where Christ was born (Gal. 4:4). Caesar Augustus of Rome required people to register for taxes where their ancestral records were kept (Lk. 2:1-4). Consequently, Joseph and Mary made the eighty mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While they were in the village, Mary brought forth her first born child, Jesus Christ (Lk. 2:7; Matt. 1:25). He was not born in a sanitized hospital room, nor in a palatial mansion that belonged to the wealthy, but was laid in a feeding trough for animals because there was no vacant room for his parents in the public inn (Lk. 2:7).
While many have recently focused on Christ during this season of the year, tragically, many have crowded Him out of their daily lives. They are guilty of dishonesty, greed, alcoholism, gambling, immorality, and a host of other behavioral activities that are counter to the lifestyle He approves. Christ is crowded out when men think unclean thoughts, speak unclean words, and engage in unclean behavior. Even some religious institutions have so formalized, ritualized, and socialized worship activities that Christ is crowded out. They have invented elaborate pageantry, liturgy, and impressive ceremony, but they have rejected Christ’s teachings and, in their place, have substituted the doctrines of men.
A sober reflection on the preceding words should cause us to express Peter’s sentiment every day of the year, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, ESV).