Division among the People
40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” 43 So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
As Christians we are called to share our faith, not to beat people over the head with it…
Yet every fall as the Christmas season approaches, we begin to hear about “The War on Christmas”…where the non-Christian world (especially Atheists) are trying to take the “Christ” out Christmas, and turn it into a totally secular holiday!
As parents we have probably had to deal with these competing versions of Christmas while raising our children…as they can often get confused by the different messages they receive about the holiday from school, the media, church and even at home…as sometimes even people within our families have differing ideas of what Christmas is about.
I have known some families who have handled this problem by going to extremes: some would not allow any mention of Santa Claus in their homes; and others who wanted to keep religion completely out of their Christmas all together!
No wonder this whole notion of there being a “War on Christmas” has gotten so much credence…as it can feel as if we are in a battle to keep the message of Christ alive, in a world that seems to be turning away from religion (not just Christianity) believing faith in God as foolish, or based on a myth or make-believe.
However, this struggle to make the secular and religious fit together is not a new issue, as it goes back to the origins of the Christmas celebration as we know it. The truth is that Christianity took over the holiday to begin with; when the first missionaries arrived in Europe they found that the local ‘pagans’ held celebrations at the end of December, at the darkest time of the year, to call the light back into the world. This celebration consisted of bon-fires, feasting and revelry, and was an important part of their culture. However, instead of taking this holiday away from those newly converted to Christianity, the church decided to make the holiday their own: Christmas! The celebration of when the light of Christ came into our dark world to bring us the hope of God’s love!
The church saw that holding the celebration of Christmas during this pagan festival as an opportunity to bring new believers into the church, and to strengthen the bonds of faith between the new Christians and the missionary church that welcomed these newcomers into their fellowship!
This is our opportunity today as well: when many may feel as if we are losing our Christmas to the secular world; with the light of Christmas being lost in the darkness of our world, or just the busy-ness of the season, this holiday is an opportunity to share our faith with the rest of the world! After all, the story of Jesus’ birth may be the first Gospel someone ever hears, and where the Gospel is heard, there is hope, and where there is hope the light of Christ can shine brightly in the darkness!
As Christians we are called to share our faith, and Christmas is that opportunity for us! It is a great chance for us to shine the light of Christ into all the dare corners of our world, and into people’s lives!
So what of Santa and all of his minions?
These have become a big part of our Christmas celebration, as the story of Santa’s generosity and genuine love for others can give hope to those who struggle…for in giving freely to others, especially to those in need, Santa embodies the message of Christmas: that God loves us!! And, the Christmas music, the stories about flying reindeer, the parties, decorations, etc…well, they are just a lot of fun, for us and for our children, and can help us to bridge the separation between the secular and the religious. Santa Claus can be an invitation to reconciliation, reminding us that in Christ there really are not any ‘them’ or ‘us’, there is only a ‘WE’!!
Sharing our faith through Christmas is a real opportunity to make Christ known in our world, as Christmas offers an invitation to the table, to join in the celebration of the light…as this light is meant to be shared, and not imposed…and teaching this lesson of sharing to our children can be one of the greatest gifts we can give them at Christmas!
Let Us Pray:
God, thank you for filling our world and our lives with the healing power of your love—the great gift of Christ, which we celebrate at Christmas! Please let us see Christmas not as a reason for battle or conflict, but as an opportunity to invite the world to the table, to share in the great gift of love you have given to us. Help us to show our children that this is what Christ calls upon us to do: share the good news of God’s love! Let us see that there is no us or them but only “WE” as we are all your children, reconciled at one in the light of the manger.