I rejoice to learn that most cultures round the world, whether Christian in background or not, like to celebrate Christmas. But why should that be? Is it purely the excitement of children receiving presents, the Christmas tree and the joining together at the height of winter as family and friends? Is it the food, the sales or the carols?
There is certainly an overlap between Christian culture and purely affluent western habits. But what if someone didn’t have the means to celebrate Christmas by buying many presents, or eating more food or travelling to visit family and friends? What if we are put off to worshipping God by the association Christmas has with consumerism? Would Christmas still be special? It should be!
There is a verse in the carol, ‘See Amid the winter’s snow’ which begins, “Say, ye holy shepherds, say…” Bearing in mind that ‘holy’ means ‘set apart for God’, I thought this quite confusing at first. What equivalents do we have to the shepherds who are called holy? Maybe night workers on the motorway? How can they be described as holy? But then I thought some more about it. The shepherds were the first people who were told to go and find out for themselves who this baby born a Saviour for the world was. They were also the first evangelists, who went away from that stable to tell everybody the good news. They may not have arrived holy at the nativity scene, but they were transformed by the time they left – after all, they had found Jesus just as the angels had said.
So my longing is that through the worship in our churches, people coming with an open mind, will also find authentic testimony to the true Christ this Christmas time. ‘Messiah, Lord, Saviour’ will be terms which take on life for them as they personally encounter our Jesus, by His Spirit among us.