We have not seen many Christmas lights up in gardens this year so far. Maybe this is because we do not travel often at night these days … or it could be due to the fact that with all the disruptions of Covid throughout most of 2020, people are showing financial fatigue and have cut back on their budget. My opposite neighbor always has an arrangement of light displays depicting Christmas. This year he has scaled down to one display … it’s a huge cross with a star above it. It demonstrates Christmas from a Biblical view point.
We don’t frequent the shops often either. Yesterday we popped into a store to purchase a few groceries. That mall and that shop did not have anything Christmassy on display either. It seems as though Christmas this year is very low key. On the one hand, this might be a good sign … but where is the “Christmas spirit”? There’s no atmosphere, no music, no carols, no Bony M! Is it that Christmas this year will be absorbed into everything Covid? Or has our secular society achieved its objective and removed as many traces of Christmas as possible? But then, this is nothing new. Over many years this has been happening.
On the one side, it is okay because far too many people get lost in the nostalgia. Too much of the shops’ advertising and décor are to pretty up the isles and shelves to encourage people to spend money. On the other hand, it seems as though the true Christmas vibe–the spiritual one–is not there anymore either.
So, what does Christmas mean anyway? What ought Christmas to mean for Christians? How ought we believers to present Christmas?
I think its right to say there is nothing wrong with having family and friends around for a special meal. Neither is there anything wrong with giving each other gifts as a token of our love and appreciation for them. So gatherings and happiness and enjoyment is not sin … but the focus ought to be on Jesus. Understandably, many family members and friends might not be Christian. Some might not just be unbelievers (Christianised), they might well belong to other religions that do not associate themselves with Jesus and Christmas at all.
So how ought we to approach Christmas? The starting point of a Christmas gathering ought to be shaped in prayer. Ask God to set the tone by preparing your heart and the hearts of your guests. Far too often, we underestimate the power of prayer to create a meeting that will be pleasant and God-honoring. Before thinking of the attitudes of others experienced in the past, pray about your own attitude. Ask God to help you speak only things that please Him … and do only acts that glorify Him.
When God took on our humanness, He did so because of love for us His creation. Mixing with family and friends that might be either nominal Christians or outright unbelievers ought to be with love. Love is not pushy or aggressive. Love does not force the Gospel message down people’s throats. Love is gracious and gentle.
When thinking about all the Christmas decorations we intend to put up … maybe we could try to find ways to create themes that depict various nativity scenes. I recall how Jenny and a good friend would do just that for Easter and Christmas in the church. It could be done in such a way that causes people to stop and look. It becomes more attractive when a Bible verse or two speaks to what is seen. Christmas Cards are largely something of the past … but carefully crafted emails or WhatsApp messages could remind people of what Christmas is about without forcing the Gospel down their throats.
A small gift with a well thought through tag pointing to the greatest gift of all might nudge a mind. Your words, controlled by the Holy Spirit, could keep the conversation clean, and where possible, touch on what Christmas means to you. One of the most important things to do is to create a lasting impression. There is nothing wrong with humour or with trying to spoil people, but if that is the impression about you that is created it is the wrong one.
I was conscripted into the then South African Army at the age of 17. We were 1,100 troops living in tents housing 10 men. Everyone in our tent was rough and ready except for one man who was tall, handsome and Christian. He did not do anything “wrong”. He followed all instructions without question. He was decent, kind, gentle and forgiving. Even though this was 54 years ago, I remember his Christian character and personality. That is what I mean by creating a lasting impression. Christ in you must direct your language, jokes, morals and behaviour. You might not get an opportunity to speak about Jesus, but your general performance will speak loudly and create a lasting impression … about Jesus in you! Although books are expensive, nothing beats a book gift that focuses on Christ, His incarnation and His mission at Christmas. If you give someone socks, underwear or chocolates, you could add a gospel tract like Two Ways to Live. This tract explains the Gospel better than most of us are able to articulate it. I am aware that I have given book gifts to people and years later they have given these books to the church for distribution … and the books are as good as new, unread. Having said that, there are those who do read the books. We need to soak such book gifts in prayer.
In Christ we are the light of the world … nothing beats the way Jesus said it:
Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Meditate upon verse 14 and then verse 16. What I tried to show above is that we need to demonstrate our salvation in Jesus through our behaviour. The way we treat people is more important than speaking the Gospel. Gain credibility before speaking Christ!
Lord Jesus, You came into this world as the light of the world. Help me to draw such light from you that I might radiate this light to those I meet up with on Christmas Day. Thank You for lighting up my heart and soul. Amen.