I’m just going to lay this out as strait forward as possible. As a preacher and disciple of Jesus Christ, I lament that Christmas has been hijacked as a pawn for a cultural war that strikes me as having little, if anything, to do with that for which Christ came. Traditionalists complain that courts have apparently ruled against the public display of nativity scenes. To vent their complaint, they have taken the fight to social media places like Facebook. The rhetoric is aimed at not only ridiculing those who do not share their views but also used to guilt trip Christians by suggesting to not say “Merry Christmas” is to not stand up for Christ.
So I have a question for those on the traditional side who typically appear to regard themselves as conservative Christians. Is being able to say “Merry Christmas”, displaying nativity scenes, etc… really what concerned Jesus? Here’s a well known verse, something Jesus did say, from the Sermon on the Mount: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5.16, NRSV). In nearly the same breath, one chapter later, Jesus also criticized those who made a point of exercising their religious piety among people (cf. Matt 6.5-6, 16-18).
Don’t misunderstand Jesus. Jesus’ point was not oppose all public expressions of piety in every circumstance. The point was to criticize those whose public piety was simply about themselves, about them being able to have the religious culture of their preference.
What does this have to do with anything? As far as I can see, it has much to do with the current culture war over Christmas. If Christians are really interested in doing what Jesus taught then we must know that Jesus desired for his followers to do good works in public and keep their pious expressions of faith as a private matter. Yet when it comes to the Holiday season, the concern among Christianity appears to be more about whether we can publicly express our “Christmas” piety in public than with whether or not we are doing good works. Further more, such concern is about us Christians because if we really were concerned about the interests of Jesus then we would be more concerned with doing good works.
Let me push this a bit farther. I’m not trying to side with the cultural progressives who want to secularize everything. I do not share their agenda. My agenda, I hope and desire for, is to be aligned with Jesus’ agenda, the kingdom of God. That is why I want to be known more for good works than whether or not I greet people during this season with “Merry Christmas” or not. Jesus’ desire was that the people would glorify God the Father. That is a desire as old as the world. Yet, according to Matthew 5.16, Jesus knew that people would glorify God the Father as they see the good works of his followers being done. So if Christians really want to keep Christ in Christmas, so that this holiday brings glory to God, it will be done so by doing good works.
I’m happy that this year the Columbia Church of Christ is participating in the Good Shepherd Christmas Project which provides clothing to foster children and other underprivileged children. I know there are other churches doing many other good works. I pray that this will be our Christmas piety for in doing so, we do keep Christ in Christmas.