Christmas means joy
I love Christmas. Now why does that feel like a confession?
Yes, I know the holiday has been twisted. The business and commercialism can be oppressive. Yes, I know that sorrow, suffering, and tragedy are particularly painfully poignant and that Satan easily scores as he particularly tries to rob us of hope at this time of year.
But I also know that — for those whose every hope is focused on the risen Lord who made his entrance into this dark world at Bethlehem — beauty, joy, and hope are at the core of this season, and they are real. They will endure even when the tree wilts, the gift wears out, or, far worse, a chair at the Christmas table is empty, or with us at the table is the knowledge of some particularly difficult days lying ahead.
When Jesus tells us we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, I think he is telling us that we are to out-love, out-think, and even out-feel the world. C. S. Lewis was right when he said that when Jesus tells us to love God more than even our own families, for most of us that means loving our families much more and much more wisely, not less, than we already do. And it surely seems to me that Christians who know the source of real beauty and joy should out-do the world in experiencing both, and perhaps especially at this time of year. For us, Christmas is lit up with real light, not just what is plugged in and artificial and forgotten when the last pine needle is swept out with the old dead tree.
I think I love Christmas — and the way I get to celebrate it now — even more than lots of folks, because of my religious background in which some folks were pretty religious about not celebrating Christmas.
Please understand, I’ve tasted far more good fruit made possible by my religious roots than I’ve tasted bad, but still it is true, I think, that some seriously rotten and bitter fruit has come at times from what I think is one of our most serious and pervasive weaknesses. To make it short, though I don’t think our founders would have made this mistake, some of their heirs decided that the New Testament was really sort of a legislative update to the Law in the Old Testament (even as they ignored the Old Testament). These folks were pretty sure that God must be approached very legally and that faith is largely about keeping the right laws. They also decided that anything not specifically permitted by “the law” was forbidden — which pretty well excludes, by the way, Christmas and a great many other very good and very beautiful things. When we center on law and not on the Savior, we shouldn’t be surprised if our faith ends up cold and hard, and the warm, beautiful, living and life-giving heart of God’s joy winds up excised from the Body and tossed on the garbage heap.
It’s one kind of loss to be forced to live without an arm or an eye. It’s another kind entirely to choose to cut one off or poke one out. Christians who choose, at this time of the year or at any other, to cut themselves off from God’s joy, can. But if they do, well, it’s a very sad choice and a very bad and ill-advised one.
God’s people, let’s out-do each other in celebrating the coming of Christ with real joy!
Curtis Shelburne is minister at 16th and Ave. D Church of Christ in Muleshoe. He can be contacted at: