Put the CHRIST Back in CHRISTMAS

As if by the sheer force of our merriment, our distraction, our errand-running, we have managed to eliminate him, and now it is our serious duty to put him back in place.

We remind each other with trite sayings penned on Christmas cards. Jesus is the reason for the season, we say earnestly. We set up that Willow Tree manger set that we all went crazy for a couple of years ago—the ceramic one, where all the figures are faceless. We arrange it so that all eyes point to the babe in the straw.

We turn our candy canes upside down: See! It’s a “J” for Jesus! The nativity glows fluorescent in the yard next to the inflatable Santa and the toy soldier, and somehow, it looks all wrong.

Today, rain: big glassy droplets all down the windows. And it is so unexpected, this Minnesota December rainstorm, that I stop and look out the sliding door at the way it gathers, shivering along the railing. The kids are napping, and for a brief moment there is only this: the quiet spattering of rain – almost silent, but also not silent at all.

Be still now. It is not up to you to put Christ anywhere.

Set down the giant, light-up Joseph, who is awkward under your arms, and look around you. God does not need to be hauled into the holiday; he is already here.

Incarnation means a lot of things, but one of them is this: the earth is wild with God’s love, his beauty, his presence. One silent night he came and now he is here, and because of that, the world is glowing, lit from within by grace.

Breathe deep of the cold winter air. Feel your lungs fill up with hope.

  • http://www.freshgroundroast.com Colson

    Certainly the phrase is cringe-worthy, but what would you say to the professing believer whose Christmas practices and habits more closely mimic that of Scrooge (I’m thinking of the most recent “A Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey). We can no easier remove Christ from Christmas than undo the Incarnation itself, but what is to be said for our fellow “brothers and sisters in Christ” (new post idea?) who behave as if they don’t know the joy, hope and freedom we aim to emulate on the 25th?

    • http://www.freshgroundroast.com Colson

      And I just saw the “Sister’s In Christ” post …. nevermind.

    • Carra

      Hi Colson. I don’t know you, but your comment intrigues me, and I guess I am a little sensitive to things like this. I don’t think there is one blanket statement you can say to people who don’t seem to be joyfully celebrating in a way we can perceive. Wouldn’t spouting “bumper sticker wisdom” belittle everyone you said it to? As if everything that’s “wrong” with them can be instantly solved by a clever–but ultimately empty–phrase. Besides, if they really are acting Scrooge-like, nothing you could say would change them.
      My question would be why do they behave that way? What in their life/story keeps them from feeling the joy? Are there other ways they celebrate away from the eyes of others? Is it even your/our place to say something? I think that Christians are so quick to “correct” each other, so quick to leave God and the Holy Spirit out of it, and yet so slow to love and understanding one another, to extend grace to each other. But isn’t that what Christmas is about–Love and Grace come down to save us all?
      I honestly think that people mean well. But sometimes, words just get in the way.
      And now I am climbing down from my soap box…

      • Carra

        Oh–and I do lump myself in the quick to act, slow to love category. :) This wasn’t meant to be an attack.

  • http://colsonandsarah.wordpress.com Colson

    Carra, I appreciate your comments. No attack perceived. And I don’t mind soapboxes so long as you let me speak from one too because two people on soapboxes are on the same level, just taller than everyone else. :)

    And I should say too, Addie, no attack was meant in my comments – just trying to pose a relevant question. And feel free to shut down my comments as you feel led. Try as I might, I’m afraid my writing will never match the quality this site is used to.

    Regarding your response Carra, I guess we read my question with different assumptions. I would agree that “bumper sticker” wisdom is generally perceived as belittling. And, for the most part, I disbelieve in fix-all blanket statements like I disbelieve in the magical phrases of Harry Potter.

    I guess I was asking the question while assuming the issues of who, how, when, etc. were ok so that it was appropriate to say “something.” Assuming there is a hypothetical professing believer who is being a true Scrooge, not everyone should say something and what’s said cannot be spoken at any time. In a real situation, there is the holy messiness of relationships and broken, sinful filter of our minds and mouths that God has chosen to use. So yes, the idea of actually saying something to our hypothetical Scrooge is incredibly complex. I guess I was asking about the “what” rather than “how” or “why.” In reality, your urge to ask why is very relevant and necessary. Scripture even commands us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

    I would, however, disagree that a Scrooge (which sadly often describes my own temperament during this season) can not change. After all, it was his brush with eternity that changed ol’ Ebenezer. And this is the crux of the Gospel, hope for us who can’t change our own position. Love and Grace have absolutely come incarnate for our saving. But for the Christian who professes with his mouth that very truth, but lives a Scrooge-ish life, can anything be said to that guy? The present reality of “God With Us” is too precious to not say something when someone verbally claims it without an attempt to live it.

    Of course, back to your point, there is a right and a wrong way for that to be done. We should be filled with grace and truth like the Christ we celebrate.

    It’s late now … I can almost hear the alarm clock going off in a few hours.

    I’m interested to hear your response.

    • Carra

      Hey again. :)

      Yes, I completely agree that the present reality of “God with us” is precious. But it still sounds like what you really want is permission to come to God’s defense because this person is giving God a bad rap by saying one thing and acting another. Or maybe it was just late when you wrote it and I don’t have enough coffee in me to fully comprehend right now… ;)

      I completely agree that a “Scrooge” can change. What I meant was that nothing you (or I, we as humans) say has the power to change him. Only the Holy Spirit can. In light of that, I think the best way to approach someone–after you know the what/why/how answers, have prayed about it, and still feel moved to say something–is to trust that God will use what you say for good. But no matter what you say, it should come from a place of grace and love and understanding and acceptance and blessing. More than that, it shouldn’t be a drive-by, one-time thing. If you (or I) really care about this person and his behavior, we should be willing to wade into his mess–and the complex holy messiness (loved that, by the way)–with him. Pray for him. Be “a little Christ” to him. That, my friend, is worth a million words. :)

  • Jayne Eclov

    Addie, when I read this, it made me stop and think that perhaps the greatest place that battle is raging is in our own souls, the soul of the believer. I can get caught up in all the “stuff” that I think I need to do (most of time want to do) that my eyes keep glancing away from the Savior to catch all the balls…then comes the guilt that can be so defeating and paralyzing. We can think it is about the world’s lack of Christ-centeredness at Christmas that bugs us, but I think for me, it is about my own heart. Your thoughts were freeing to me….rest, quit trying, quit feeling guiltly, just look at Jesus. He’s not gone anywhere, I don’t have to put Him back anywhere, He is so right here!

    • Addie Zierman

      Yes. I think it’s so easy for the Jesus piece of Christmas to become just another thing we have to do. When really, there is nothing we have to check off our list to make him come. He is already here; all we have to do is pay attention.

  • Jake Brower

    ahhh…. this post gave me chills up and down my spine. I am such a rain guy, I think I was meant to live in the northwest, or Canada, or somewhere else where it rains a lot.

    At work on Thursday I was dropping the check off to one of my tables at the restaurant and I left saying, “Happy Holidays.” and the obviously, “Christian,” woman snapped back at me saying…

    “You mean, merry Christmas!”

    I looked at her and just kind of shrugged, reminding myself to pick my battles wisely.

    I was ultimately really saddened and filled with a sense of hopelessness. I spend so much of my life attempting to re-paint our God for the friends in my life who have a tainted view of Him simply because of the lifestyle, tone of voices and general attitudes of those who claim faith in Him. How can I even make a dent when most people who say they follow Christ have no interest in loving people. You want to put Christ back in christmas, but how about we start by putting Christ back into Christianity… who He really is, His hands, feet and heart.

    Feels like an uphill battle… but hearing your heart gives me hope Addie. Keep it up.

    • http://www.simplelivinginc.net Neal Brower

      I’m willing to bet not many of this blog’s readers/contributors watch Fox News Channel, but they have been chronicling the “war on Christmas.” Politicizing faith is ridiculous. Nothing more incongruous. Unless it is the so-called believer (a term Paul loved) who takes their stand on a statement about a greeting with the weight of federal law behind it. When did we begin caring more about our “right” to use a greeting than for the heart of the one who would take that “right” away? Where is the peace that Prince brought to earth and intended for all our interactions?
      So, to all of Addie’s followers: may your days be merry and bright.

      • Addie Zierman

        Neal and Jake, I could not agree more. While I can understand the frustration with all the commercialism and the ads and the pressure, the impulse to defend and fight for the “true meaning” of Christmas seems to be missing the point. Let go of the anger, the frustration. Serve. Love. Give. And in doing so, continue the incarnation of God’s love and hope for the world for those who cannot yet see it.

  • David Skoglund

    I saw this yesterday and thought it was worthy of sharing on this thread.
    ————–

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-god-article/a-christmas-letter-from-jesus-by-rev-jim-luck/288691241168498

    Happy holy days! I know some of you would prefer I say Merry Christmas, but folks… in case you forgot, I’m Jewish. I certainly don’t want to forget my siblings celebrating those marvelous holy days of Hanukkah. However, since so many of you are so concerned about keeping me as the reason for the season, I thought I might weigh in on the matter.

    Let’s start by recognizing that there’s nothing innately holy about December 25th. The day was chosen to compete with ancient Roman holidays and because some thought it was 9 months after Gabriel gave the news to mom. However, for centuries you celebrated my birth on January 6, Epiphany. Slavic nations using a different calendar still do their celebrating on January 7. Regardless as to the day, I’m grateful when you remember me.

    Now some of you think that the secularists are taking me out of Christmas. The truth is, Christians have been debating how to celebrate Christmas for centuries. In the 1740’s your German ancestors argued that celebrating Christmas on December 25th was a paganization. So yesterday, protestants tried to take Christ out of Christmas. Today their children are trying to keep it in. Go figure. Oh, by the way, it’s okay to write “X-mas.” “X” is the Greek letter Chi and the first letter in Christ. It is an excellent and short way to write Christ’ mass. I know that’s too Catholic for some of you but, really… where did you think we got the name Christmas from?

    While I am grateful for expressing your concerns, I must admit I have some concerns of my own. Even if you choose to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”, you weren’t honoring me back on the day after Thanksgiving when you knocked over the person in Wal-Mart trying to muscle your way to the front of the line. I know you didn’t see her; that’s my point. And yes, that was a very nice letter to the editor you wrote when the city removed the creche from the front of town hall. But do you really think you are keeping Me the reason for the season when you spend more money than King Herod ever thought about! Folks, you spend more than 250 billion dollars a year on Christmas!!! During a recession!!!!! You could provide clean water for the world for only 10 billion, and you’d still have 240,000,000,000 left for presents. That’s a lot of 0’s and a lot of presents.

    Speaking of Herod, he killed a lot of kids hunting me down. Now I’m not trying to be rude, but you need to hear this. You kill me – me, the Son of Man – every time a child dies from a lack of clean water. When someone dies because they didn’t bother going to the hospital as they didn’t have any health insurance; well that was me who died. When you spend billions on yourself while I lack a crust of bread, how can you think even for a moment, that you are keeping me the reason for the season? Folks, it’s about time you learned that I spend my time worrying about more than “holiday” trees and nomenclature.

    While you haven’t asked, I too have a Christmas list this year. Well? What did you think? It’s my birthday, of course I get to ask for presents. So, here we go.

    1. I want you to relax. There are things to get histrionic about in this world. The secularization of Christmas isn’t one of them. If you’re upset that there’s no creche in your town, put one in your yard. And by the way, I know I’m being picky, but the magi didn’t arrive the night I was born. In fact they didn’t come until later; much, much later. Just thought you should know.

    2. Make a visit to a nursing home or the Hospice house on Christmas Day and visit someone who doesn’t have any family.

    3. Give your children presenCE and not presenTS. I came to earth to be with you. The least you can do is to actually be with your kids.

    4. Practice random acts of kindness and forgiveness.

    5. Buy a gift or provide a meal for someone you don’t know. And DON’T make it the cheapest thing you can find. That’s the kind of thing that just drives me crazy.

    6. Don’t be rude. The salesperson you just snapped at just got divorced. The person you honked at just found out his Dad has cancer. The person you just cussed out in line considered suicide recently. Since you don’t know what’s happening with others, try to treat them all like you would treat Me. And smile.

    In short, if you want to remember me then re-member me. Re-embody who I am and what I value. Work for justice. Show grace to those on the fringes. You are the only Christ some people may ever meet. Let them know by your actions what I am about. And if you forgot – and it pains me to say this, a bunch of you have – the answer is love. The answer is always love.

    Since Christmas is actually on a Sunday this year, I hope to see you at my mass.

    Love,

    The Prince of Peace

    By: Rev. Jim Luck

    • Addie Zierman

      Dave, this is PERFECT. I agree 100%. Thanks so much for posting!

  • Marjorie

    For some reason I didn’t read this entry until now, just let it hang out unread in my RSS reader. But it might be my favorite thing you’ve posted here. “It is not up to you to put Christ anywhere”–lovely.

    • Addie Zierman

      Thank you, Marjorie. So glad!

  • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

    David’s comment must’ve been where I discovered that post (the one he quoted/linked to). I wrote a blog post about how we (American society) do Christmas. In case you’re interested: http://aroadlesstraveledblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/how-we-do-christmas1.html.