Monday, December 24, 2012

Uninvited . . . to Your Own Birthday Party?

Can you imagine someone telling you about plans to stage a huge party for your birthday, and then informing you, “Oh, uh, by the way, you’re not invited. We really don’t want you there”?

How quickly would your jaw drop? Would you catch it in time before it hit the floor?

Then, before you could even say, “What?!”, the person would reply, “Oh, nothing personal. Well, actually, it is personal. If you were there, you’d make us feel uncomfortable, and it would have to be all about you. We really don’t want that.”

That’s basically what happens across much of America as we celebrate Christmas. The holiday that incorporates the name of Christ in its title will, in many quarters, have little or nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, great effort is often made to ensure He is excluded from consideration.

So what if the holiday is called Christ-mas? Isn’t it really all about exchanging gifts and Santa Claus and eating good food and spending time with family and friends you don’t see the rest of the year?

Why would the birth of a child be such a
turning point in the history of mankind?
It’s not new, but more than ever in our age of political correctness we sponsor "holiday parties" and schools close for "winter break," instead of Christmas parties and Christmas vacation. In many retail stores and restaurants, employees wish us “Happy holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Nativity scenes on public display are regarded as offensive and intolerant.

And of course we hear profound, high-sounding opinions from “sophisticated” thinkers, commentators and columnists, even religious leaders, discussing and debating “what is the real meaning of Christmas?” To me, such rhetoric is as pointless as analyzing the meaning of spaghetti, or the meaning of a bathrobe. The meaning’s so obvious the question shouldn’t merit a response. But if you exclude Christ from Christmas, you certainly do need to formulate some other explanation for the celebration.

Now if someone asked why we celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, I’d agree that’s a worthwhile question. No one knows for certain the date Jesus was born. It likely wasn’t Dec. 25. Maybe it was March 17, October 21, or perhaps July 4. Who knows? And what difference does that really make?

The point is that we do celebrate the birth of Christ, aware that had it not been for His life, His death on the cross, His burial and His resurrection, there would be no need to commemorate His birth. Without each of those events, Jesus would be just another forgotten individual born to Jewish parents in the ancient Middle East.

But as John 1:14 informs us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God willingly chose to come and live with us, experiencing life as a human being – its joys, its frustrations, its pain, temptations and sorrows. Whenever we want to say, “God, You just don’t understand,” He replies, “Oh, yes I do. I’ve been there and done that.”

He didn’t stay as “little baby Jesus,” but became a man, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, giving hope to the hopeless, and dying for sins He didn’t commit – so that we could receive forgiveness we don’t deserve. That, I’m convinced, is the real meaning of Christmas.

So as you gather with your loved ones to celebrate Christmas, enjoy the gifts and the food, the banter and the hugs. But please, let Jesus – the Christ of Christmas – be a welcomed guest at His own party.

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