CHRISTMAS IS FOR PAGANS
Don’t let my title offend you. I’m not suggesting that Christians should stop celebrating Christmas or worshiping our glorious Lord whose birth it recalls. While it’s true that no one knows for sure the date on which Jesus was born, it was good and right for Christians to agree on a date to cease their business activities, join together in worship, and proclaim the good news that Jesus was born. In that sense, there is no question that Christmas was meant for unbelievers. Jesus Himself said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.” As such, Jesus became the first and greatest missionary of all time not merely crossing the barriers of culture, language, and geography to reach us, but giving up the glory of heaven and bridging the gap of space and time to pay for our sins, rise from the dead, and become one of us so that He could share all of life with us.
As we go about our errands the past few weeks, one thing is clear. Christmas is in the air. Department stores are packed with gifts and shoppers preparing for the holiday. Homes in our neighborhood are lit up with lights that announce Christmas is near. One man, just around the corner from us, has spent hours and hours erecting an absolutely beautiful display. Even the Gresham DMV, where we secured our Oregon licenses and license plates, is decorated with Christmas wreaths. When we arrived home from that long ordeal, we relaxed by watching the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and listening to a variety of artists sing the beautiful songs of the season. I doubt whether all who participated know Jesus in a personal way. But what better way to remind them of who Jesus is than by singing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
That’s why I believe the celebration of Christmas is also for pagans. Can you think of a better opportunity to share the good news of His love with unbelievers than when the whole world is celebrating His birth? I know the arguments – their worship is not pure, Santa Claus, and commercialism have diverted their attention from the real meaning of Christmas. But what else can be expected if we’ve never shared the miracle with them–that God the Son became a man at Christmas? You see, celebrating Christmas is just one way that unbelievers try to fill the emptiness of their souls and lay hold of heaven. But that’s impossible. Heaven can’t be laid hold of by earth. Instead, heaven must lay hold of you. For if our efforts could get us into heaven, we would be the source of our salvation and we wouldn’t need a Savior. It’d be like telling a drowning man if he swims better, he’ll make it to shore and won’t need a lifeguard to save him. But we do need a Savior. We need Jesus who has the power to save us from everything that’s wrong in us and this world.
As I mingle with people this Christmas season, what strikes me is the emptiness I see behind their smiling faces. How do you solve the problem of emptiness? Imagine you’re thirsty. So you go the cupboard to get a glass, only to find all of them empty. So what do you do to rectify the problem? Fill the emptiness with substance you need. Hence, you go to the sink and fill the glass with cool refreshing water. Likewise, the reason God sent His Son into our world was to relieve our spiritual emptiness. Augustine was right, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”
This is the Immanuel promise. “The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matt. 1:23) Heaven came down to be with us in our sin and sorrow. So, like the glass, how do we relieve our emptiness and the evil within? Not by focusing on our emptiness. Nor do we overcome sin by focusing on sin; we overcome it by letting the Prince of Peace fill our souls. Or to put it another way, salvation comes not by fighting sin; it comes by opening our hearts to the presence of Immanuel (God with us) who promised, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me…For this is the will of My Father, everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
So, if you’ve not yet opened your heart to Him, I encourage you to do so today. You can’t earn your way to heaven; nor can you drag Jesus down from His throne in heaven. But you can turn from your self-righteousness and humbly ask Him to fill your heart with His Spirit. And He will! His promise is, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out!”
One final thought—if Jesus was the first and greatest missionary of all, and He now lives within your heart, then what does that make you? It makes you a missionary like Him. For you’ve been born from above, and this world is no longer your home. Heaven is. Therefore, celebrate your new life by telling someone else about Him. Our family plans to celebrate the Christmas season by baking Christmas cookies and delivering them to those who live around us in our new neighborhood—Jean, Mary, Walt, and Alma. Just one small way of reminding the unbelievers we know that the Christ of Christmas loves them.