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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

As I lay in bed last night contemplating Christmas, it was not visions of sugarplums that were dancing in my head. I’ve been feeling a little like Charlie Brown this Christmas, not because I don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas, but because I DO. I’ll explain.

This Christmas season has been the most spiritually eye opening Christmas of my adult life thus far. Let me begin by saying that I am a Christmas fanatic. I love Christmas. My husband would attest to the fact that I begin watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and getting excited about the season mid-July. I’m like a little kid at Christmas- I love everything about it. I love the music (all of it!), the lights, the movies, the scents, the weather (when it’s cold and “frightful” J) the decorations- you name it. Until this season, I even loved Santa Claus. Well, I must admit, a part of me still loves the magic of believing in Santa, but this year is different.

I recently completed reading the book of Isaiah in the Bible from beginning to end, meditating on it over a period of weeks. I have never felt so in awe of the Lord’s greatness and faithfulness to His promises. Each prophecy of the coming messiah was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and I cannot understand how anyone (especially Jews who are familiar with the Old Testament prophecies) can miss the fact that Jesus was and is the long awaited King born to save His people from their sins. My heart aches for the unbelieving world and culture of today who is increasingly trying to push Christ out of Christmas. A wonderful new movie, ‘The Nativity Story’ opened recently, and to say that it seems to have been a flop in the box office is an understatement. I’d bet that ‘The Santa Clause 3’ had a better turn out. Why? Because people don’t want to hear about Jesus. ‘Happy Holidays’ has replaced ‘Merry Christmas’ in most stores, and it almost feels rebellious to greet passerby’s with a jolly “Merry Christmas!” because it might be offensive to someone who celebrates the recently made up holiday “Kwanza” instead. I despise what the world has done to Christmas, and with Christmas being celebrated without any reference to Christ, Christmas seems to have done little to affect our unbelieving world today.

My initial aversion to the worldly celebration of Christmas began on the night of Thanksgiving when I was watching the news and saw the line of people camped out at Best Buy to get the early morning bargains. The next night mobs of people were shown trampling each other to get their hands on the new PS3, someone even getting shot in the process. Christmas has been turned into a greedy push and shove shopping spree. When Christmas is focused on snowmen and Santa and jingle bells and decking the halls, what is really being celebrated? Why not just celebrate the winter solstice? I have many lifelong childhood friends who are not believers in Christ who celebrate Christmas and take part in the many traditions of the season- the tree, the lights, the food, the sending of Christmas cards, etc. What I find most absurd, however, is the professing “Christians” who celebrate Advent and don’t even believe in the virgin birth of Christ or the entire reason He was born!! If you don’t even believe Jesus is God in the flesh, come to Earth to save people from their sins, what in the world does the “Advent” mean to you? I just don’t get it.

My family has celebrated the Advent so far this year in meaningful ways that have focused on the forgotten true reason for the season: the birth of Christ. We’ve read passages of the Christmas story from the Bible while enacting it in the nativity set, lit candles for the advent and talked about Jesus’s upcoming birthday. We’ll be making Jesus a birthday cake instead of cookies for Santa. We’ll be excited to put baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning and try to focus on giving to others because of the great gift God gave us, rather than being focused on what we’ll get from Santa. My children are excited about Christmas because of Jesus, and that’s how it should be. Their preferred Christmas movie is not ‘Rudolph’ or ‘Frosty’, but ‘The Very First Noel’. My twelve year old is long past believing in Santa, and no, I don’t think he’s damaged in any way from believing in Santa in his early years, nor does he hold resentment because I “lied” to him. Those are not my reasons for diminishing Santa from our family celebration. My little ones of course recognize Santa Claus in their Christmas books, but when they see him out in public, they want nothing to do with him. In fact, Santa approached my 20 month old daughter in the grocery store with a bag of goodies the other day and she was frozen with fear and turned her little face away so he’d leave her alone. So, at this point, why make a big deal about Santa and further frighten her by telling her that this big, burly red suited stranger is going to come down our chimney and check on her while she’s sleeping? Why distract from the true meaning of Christmas in our home any more than the world already tries to detract from it? My kids are plenty excited about Christmas for the right reasons, and I prefer to let them know that their daddy worked very hard to buy them the few presents they have- not that some man they don’t even know will give them whatever their little heart’s desire.

Call me a fundamentalist, legalist, killjoy- whatever. While I loathe the term “fundamentalist” because it conjures up visions of religious extremists like that of 9/11, I remind myself when I know I am being mocked for my convictions that there IS only one way of being Christian. Repenting of sin, trusting in Christ’s sacrificial death to pay the penalty for my sin and believing the fundamentals of the faith that are taught in the Bible. Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an article about this on his blog, and I encourage you to read it. He goes as far as I have in previous posts to say that if you do not believe the fundamental truth of the Biblical account of the virgin birth of Christ once you are presented with this truth, then you are not a Christian. I am not giving up Santa because I think it is a sinful practice. However, I do think Santa has a danger of becoming an idol of Christmas in many homes today- even Christian homes. I don’t think I HAVE to do it this way, but the Lord has changed my heart and I WANT to. I don’t plan to ban Santa altogether- at this point, at least. We will still read our Christmas books about Santa and watch holiday classics starring Santa, and we’ll still belt out songs like Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but we won’t make this a focus by playing it up and emphasizing it. We’ll tell our children that Santa and all the other secular traditions of Christmas are fun additions to the season, but that’s not the reason we celebrate. When we focus on the wonder of the manger and Christ’s birth, it far overshadows any nostalgia about Santa.

You can’t be expected to appreciate Christ’s wonderous birth if you don’t understand why He came. And, you can’t understand why He came until you can admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. We are lawbreakers sentenced to death and cannot afford to pay our fine ourselves. Christ paid the fine for us and released us from the oppression and bondage of sin and death. He did not come to promote social reform or to teach us how to properly love our neighbor or to change our circumstances, but His primary reason for coming to Earth was to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1: 21). What greater reason do you need to celebrate this Christmas?

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2: 8-14)

And THAT’S what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. It was a divine revelation for Charlie Brown and I finally fully understand it myself. I’m not going to let anything distract my family from the fact that JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!

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