The slogan Keep Christ in Christmas has been around for a while now. We hear we’re supposed to keep Christ in Christmas, meaning we aren’t supposed to say Seasons Greetings but Merry Christmas apparently even to people whose religion we don’t know.
This has always struck me as risky, and unnecessary. How do I know if they’re Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah? Or celebrate Kwanzaa? Or don’t celebrate any of these and like New Year’s Eve? I don’t, and I’m not going to religiously profile them by looking at their skin color or facial features and take a wild, presumptive guess. It’s just a greeting after all.
Besides, there’s something much more important than doing this: We should keep Christ not just in Christmas but in our whole year, or rather our whole lives. Maybe Christians should instead adopt another much better slogan: “Keep Christ in Christians.”
Sometimes, however, I’m not sure which is more difficult: Keeping Christ in Christians or Christ in Christmas. One person, Rebecca wrote recently, “This time of year, I try to remember our first Christmas together after we got married. It was my first Christmas away from home, and we were far away teaching English in China. I was pregnant and miserably sick. There was no snow or lights or carols. No stockings, gingerbread houses, or Christmas cards. After all, it wasn’t a holiday in China.
We tried to get into the Christmas spirit by cutting out paper snowflakes and downloading Christmas songs from iTunes. We even found a tiny 6-inch Christmas tree in the city. But for some reason, I still wasn’t really feeling the Christmas spirit.
On Christmas Eve I started thinking about everything our families would be doing back home and on Christmas morning we had to go teach our classes. There were no presents under our little tree. Money was tight, and we decided we’d exchange letters instead of gifts. But as I sat down to read my husband’s letter, my entire mood shifted. He talked about how grateful he was for our marriage and how excited he was to become a dad in the new year.
As I continued reading, I started thinking of the first Christmas family and that little baby in the manger. I thought of my own new family and our little baby that was growing inside of me. And suddenly I was overwhelmed with love—Christ’s love for me. That’s the Christmas spirit!
We didn’t have any presents to unwrap, but we had all the greatest gifts already. Away on the other side of the world, away from the materialism and commercialism of Christmas, I found and felt the real reason for the season. And every year as things get crazy and chaotic, I try to remember our first Christmas and what’s important – my family and my God.”
When tomorrow, Christmas morning comes, and you’re about to unwrap whatever presents are there to be unwrapped, and you’re all excited, but you remember how fast this is all going to go by, and you recall perhaps how little has been done toward and for Christ Jesus, though you are here tonight, very good, and you’re wondering what else could I have done, what could I do right now to slow this done and put it in the right perspective, to put Christ in Christmas, at least Christmas morning, there is something little I want to give to you for just that moment.
It’s called the “The Christmas Prayer,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s on p.11 of our bulletin, so you can take it home with you and have it tomorrow. It is also on our website. I would like you to pause, stop actually, to take that time to say this prayer.
“Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
It’s a little thing, just a half a minute, but maybe it will turn into something more. Maybe you can say something you’ve been meaning to say, forgive someone you’ve been seeking to forgive, pray for someone you’ve forgotten to pray for. Maybe tomorrow morning, you will start a new tradition with this prayer, and then turn to light a candle and have each person say a quiet prayer of gratitude, or request, into its light to God, from whom all gifts come down.
Perhaps by then, the gifts you will give and receive will be placed in their proper perspective, and the hearts of all will shine from the inside out, and there will be room for Christ in your Christmas morning.
(I know we hope just as much to “Keep Christ in Christians.” But we also know how busy we are. Never has a society left less space than us. Multi-tasking, keeping up with social media, driving, doing, going. How often we say and hear: “So much to do.” “Pulled so many ways.” We constantly react to the next “requirement” rather than being intentional about how we spend our time.
What we’re trying to do is conquer time, to bend it to our will, to squeeze every second out of it, and perhaps to turn an hour from a 60-minute reality into a 70-minute reality.
It’ll never happen. We don’t conquer time. After all, it’s another year gone by, and….
Scripture has something to say about this mentality. It says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We’re not really the conquerors we want to believe we are, but as scripture says, we are more than conquerors, that is, we’re different than conquerors.
We need to choose a different way of going about time, our lives, what’s important.
Give up some time and open your heart to the Lord. Breathe deeply once a day, make time to read or contemplate, to feel, believe, doubt, pray, hope, rest, seek peace, make peace and find peace, to turn to God, to talk to Christ, to invite the Holy Spirit to heal and help you, to ask God to protect your loved ones, to help you become wiser, resist temptations, guide you in a decision.)
Make room for the Lord. Find some space for Christ to dwell with you. Keep the Word close. Let the light shine so darkness doesn’t reach so deep.
Jesus didn’t live and die to establish a holiday in his name. He was born, lived, died and rose to bring God’s light into a world often darkened, hectic, dangerous, and uncaring. He sought people to come to him, to believe in the kingdom, to keep alive the light of God, Christmas morning and every morning.
As the great Christmas carol proclaims, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come: Let earth receive her King! Let ev’ry heart prepare him room.”
Can the church and our hearts say Amen?