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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Real Meaning of Christmas?

It seems that throughout most of my life I have listened to stories, watched TV shows, heard songs and received greeting cards and SPAM proclaiming "the real meaning of Christmas." Some of these things seemed noteworthy. Some of them have seemed, in all honest, rather sappy. But the one thing that's been consistent among them is the strength and sincerity. It seems that world is doing its best to explain "the real meaning of Christmas." And I wonder why.

What are we really trying to accomplish when attempting to tell "the real meaning of Christmas?" Are we afraid that many don't understand? Is it so hard to understand ... that it needs so much explaining? Maybe we're trying to evangelize others, so that everyone will celebrate Christmas?

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality & Human Rights Commission of the British government, went public today with an official government decree regarding Christmas. He said, "It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be the star of the show." This is good news indeed. It's not really a surprise though. The British government is but one in this world that does NOT separate church and state. In fact, many Brits take pride in the fact that their head of state is also their head of church (the Queen).

The British government financially supports most churches too. So it's not surprising that the British government would come out in support of Christmas and of keeping Christ as the focal point of Christmas. I know, some of us Americans want to just say, "Duh!" Let's resist the urge though. Instead, let's be grateful for a voice of truth ringing out anywhere. The world has been hard at work to remove Christ from Christmas. I think we should applaud anyone who tries to put Him back.

Now what is surprising is that other major religions of the world have responded to this declaration of the British government. (See report at

Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council, happily exclaimed that, "Hindus celebrate Christmas too. It's a great holiday for everyone living in Britain." Really? What is it that they are celebrating? The last time I checked, the Hindus had thousands of gods in their religion, and no one true god. What then does Christmas mean to a Hindu, living anywhere?

Indarjit Singh, a Sikh spokesman, told us how he and his family send out Christmas cards ... to both their Christian friends and others.

The real surprise was from our Muslim brethren. Shayk Ibrahim Mogra, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "To suggest celebrating Christmas and having decorations offends Muslims is absurd. Why can't we have more nativity scenes in Britain?" Really? So the Muslims would like to see more representations of Christ's birth? Wow! I wonder that they think they are seeing when they do come upon a nativity scene. What do Muslim parents tell their children about Christmas?

This got me to wondering if the Muslims, like the Hindus, might celebrate Christmas. It turns out that at least some of them do. Here's a web site where they can even buy t-shirts to promote their celebration: Reading up on the Muslim celebration of Christmas ( it seems that their celebration actually lacks a nativity scene.

So do we need to keep trying to explain "the real meaning of Christmas?" And if we do, does it help to have Kermit the Frog, Charlie Brown, The Grinch, and others do the explaining? Can they clear up the ambiguity that Christmas seems to be drowning in?

Last year at Christmas time, I got hit with my own "real meaning of Christmas." You see, I've been working at something I like to call "owning my brokenness." That is, I've been trying to understand, with acute depth, the sin nature that I possess. God sent Jesus Christ to be my Savior. He just didn't exactly make it clear to me why I needed one. So I've been trying to figure that out. It turns out that God's effort was not in vain. Indeed I do need a Savior. Quite frankly, it turns out that my need for a Savior is quite dire too. Without Him, I would have no hope whatsoever in this life ... or the next!

As I sat in a Christmas Eve service at my church last year, I considered my brokenness. I considered all the reasons why I needed a Savior. From that perspective, I have to tell you that Christmas suddenly got considerably bigger. The gift of a Savior, God's own Son, became much, much more significant. I sat and wept when I considered the realities of Christmas and how I personally fit into those realities. If not for my sin, I wouldn't have needed a Savior --- and there wouldn't be Christmas. How ironic.

It's nearly a year later. My thoughts about Christmas have been changed forever. As we ushered in this Christmas season, I'm finding I have less tolerance for the sappy songs. I'm no longer interested in being entertained by someone else's version of "the real meaning of Christmas." I find much more readily see through veiled attempts to stir emotions without stirring hearts (to repentance and worship). And I find myself listening to Christmas songs and wondering if they were written because someone wanted to make some money --- or if perhaps some of them were written by someone who was overcome with joy at the realization of the truth about Christmas.

The Bible tells us that if we don't worship Him, the rocks will cry out. At Christmas time, when we keep trying to explain the "real meaning of Christmas," I worry that maybe the rocks are warming up. The real meaning of Christmas isn't that hard to find. One just has to look at their own need for a Savior.

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