The Importance of Christmas
A few years ago I attended a Christmas Eve worship service in contemporary style. That year the theme of the service was the purpose of Christmas and one of the songs was “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” It is #626 in our hymnal and the first stanza has these words:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.
It was not your normal Christmas Eve service where we tell the story of baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, no room in the inn, angels, shepherds, and wise men who arrive from the East. It was jarring just as the pastor intended it to be. We were led to focus on human sinfulness, a need for salvation, and the importance of God taking on salvation for human beings.
The magnitude of the event sometimes escapes us when we should be struck silent with awe at that amazing love of God and the incredible lengths to which God went for our salvation.
Christmas and Easter mark the important orienting events of human history and demand “our full homage.” Three implications should flow from a focus on the importance of Christmas
First, it should be a time of deepening our faith, hope and love. All Christians should be on a journey toward maturity in Christ, called sanctification in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:3). I am praying that all United Methodists connect in new ways with God’s sanctifying grace between now and the end of the year.
Second, one way to take a giant step in the right direction is to embrace the idea that Christmas is not your birthday. It is Jesus’ birthday, and we should pay him full homage by giving him more monetary gifts than we give all other persons combined. We give gifts to Jesus by supporting his church, caring for the poor and supporting God’s justice in the world. Generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and we should use our year-end decisions to become more generous toward Christ.
Third, Christmas should be a primary season of evangelism. The message of the angels was that a savior was born in Bethlehem with messages of peace and good will for all people. This is the time of year when non-believers just might be open to an invitation to experience the grace of God in church through worship, preaching, music or drama. I believe that every United Methodist is called to be an evangelist. This Advent and Christmas season, can you invite an unchurched person to meet Christ?
Christmas is important. Make it so.