Millennials are not fond of traditions. We hate it when old people get stuck in the ruts of a certain color of pew, singing out of hymnbooks, or having a certain order of service.
But sometimes our witch-hunt to destroy traditions can take us too far.
In a conversation with a millennial friend, we debated whether or not the whole Christmas season was even biblical. American Christianity seems to have embraced the culture of covetousness, materialism, and empty rituals inherited from the Catholics and pagans.
Why do we need to dedicate a whole month (or two or three) to an account found in only a couple Gospel chapters? Why don’t we do the same for the holiday celebrating the death and resurrection? Why don’t we dedicate times to reflect on His earthly life or various other aspects of salvation?
Would God really have wanted us to spend so much time focusing on Christ’s birth and use it as an opportunity to indulge in gluttony and greed?
I was sincerely curious. For years, I have been one of the most Christmassy people around. My room was always the most decorated, and I was always the first to start listening to Christmas music (I waited till October this year!). But was my obsession with the season really motivated by an ethnocentric, Westernized materialism?
Certainly, the overspending and overeating are issues we must repent of. We should find a balance between Black Friday hordes and Scrooge-ness. But I don’t think we should throw Santa out with the sleigh on this issue (though getting rid of Santa may not be a bad idea)…
God obviously enjoys holidays. In Israel’s Law, He instituted several feasts throughout the year to celebrate certain events – Passover for the Exodus, Booths for the wilderness journey, and the Day of Atonement to confess sin. What about these feasts today? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 14 and declared that we have Christian liberty on the matter of holidays (vs. 5).
Must Christians celebrate Christmas? No. But if we are to be redeemers of our culture and have a witness in our community, embracing the positive aspects of Christmas is a great idea. Like what?
Celebrating the birth of Christ for an entire month is not too much of a focus on a small matter of Scripture. If properly studied, the birth of Christ – more accurately, the Incarnation of the God-Man – spans many, many passages.
There are countless Old Testament passages that speak of Christ’s coming. John 1 and 1 John 1 are as much Christmas passages as Luke 2! Reflect on those passages and stand in awe at the fact that “the Word became flesh.” Study the Pauline epistles for references to His Incarnation (Philippians 2 is a great place to start).
The Bible cannot help but speak about the fact that the God of the Universe became a man. And why not? It’s an earth-shattering concept! He forsook Heaven to suffer as a little baby! We could celebrate that all year round for all eternity and never fully exhaust the wonders of that truth.
I thought I knew the Christmas story after ten years of studying it. I’ve written stories about the night Christ was born and countless poems and blog posts. But every year, I still come away with something new.
This year, I was struck by how often the characters in the story are drawn to worship God because of the news of Christ’s birth. Literally, everyone is drawn to praise!
Why doesn’t the Christmas story compel us to do the same? It’s no empty tradition. It’s a time to worship Christ! If we truly celebrate the Incarnation as we should, we will come away calling, “Oh come, let us adore Him!”
It’ll also cause us to give gifts, not out of materialism, but out of genuine selflessness. Gifts that cost us something, like the Magi. Or better yet, like God who gave up His Son.
It’ll cause us not to be focused on our American traditions but on the world in need of the Gospel, from a Jewish priest to Gentile sages. The shepherd’s encounter with baby Jesus led them to want to “make known” to all what the angels had “made known” to them.
It will cause us to reach out to the poor and needy, since our Savior was born in poverty, without even any room in a guest house for Him.
Christmas can be a time of great spiritual growth and evangelistic drive to the needy. Or it can be a time of empty traditions and ethnocentric materialism. You decide.
I call on millennials to spend less time wanting to disregard a good tradition and more time in redeeming it for the glory of God and the worship of the One born King of the Jews!
Merry Christmas from The Church Accords!