By Gerald Cowan
What the world calls Christmas is a very enjoyable time for some, but it is a most difficult and depressing time for many others. We may want to think of it as a time of togetherness, family time, a time of giving, receiving, and sharing. But it isn’t wonderful when you are alone, nothing to share and no one to share with.
There is much ambivalence about Christmas. Should it be religious or non-religious? I confess to a certain ambivalence too. On one hand I want to share the warmth and good will, but on the other hand, I do not want to promote or support any religious error. The trouble is, too many make it an either or proposition. If you don’t accept the whole package, you can’t have any of the parts. And if by chance you don’t believe in Christmas some are not sure you can even be Christian.
There is much about the traditional observance of what is called Christmas which is highly objectionable to those who know and respect the Bible. Materialism and commercialism promote the "Gimme this...I want that" spirit. There’s outright paganism in the trees, lights, Santa Claus and his elves and reindeer, etc. But this plays a large part in the celebration, even for members of supposedly Christian churches. A billboard poster shows what is supposed to be the holy family, with baby Jesus in the manger. Above, there is a flying sleigh and reindeer with Santa driving. The caption reads: "Whose birthday is it, anyway? There’s no room for both Jesus and Santa Claus in the manger." Santa Claus has become "the secular spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving." Perhaps he should be identified in modern culture as "the spirit of materialism and selfishness."
For too many, in practical terms, Santa is "the spirit of prejudice and neglect of the poor," the one who punishes the naughty and rewards the nice, unless they happen to be poor. A tearful mother told a TV news interviewer that being poor was certainly hard on the children. "How can we tell the children again this year that Santa will not be coming to our house?" This was then followed by an appeal: "Send money to buy gifts to redeem Santa’s image in the minds of these poor children." Why not just tell them the truth, that Santa is a fake and a fraud, just a fairy tale? Tell them their parents are unable to give them things. Others can and should help to do what the parents can’t, but don’t do it to make Santa look good. Give to build their faith in the basic decency and good will of mankind. Do it as Christians. Give in a way that makes God and His Christ look good.
Is there anything good to say about the celebration of "Christmas"? It does, for a little while at least, stir up general good will among people. It is too bad that these feelings don’t stay with us all the time. It has at least been a long-standing monument to the belief in the actual coming of Christ into the world. and that is good. Jesus Christ could not have died as our Savior had He not ever been born. I want to capitalize on that idea in the sermons today. Not the idea of Christmas, but the fact of God’s presentation of Christ to the world at various times in the past and a continuous presentation in the present, and the response the world has made to Him.
Do you wonder, as I do, how people would respond if Christ should come into the world now, as He did before? Would there be any room for Him? I also wonder how much of the world will be properly prepared to meet Christ when God presents Him for the final time. Will there be any room for Him then?
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com