Christmas: the Need for Christ-centred Clarity in the Midst of Cultural Confusion and Compromise

Christmas – what’s it all about?

Imagine a member of a tribe, from the Amazon jungle was plopped into the middle of 21st century Christmas celebrations.

 If they were to observe what happens at Christmas, would they really get what it was all about, or would they be a bit confused? Moving on from what people do, there are also tremendous differences in what people think about Christmas, even amongst Christians.

For some it is a Pagan Festival to be rejected, for others it is a Christian festival to be celebrated, still others see it as a consumer fest where big businesses exploit the poor, and individuals get caught up in the rat race of excess buying but for most folk it is simply a family feast – a time for rest, relaxation and fun with friends and family

Christmaas is also time of irony

  • A time for giving and receiving gifts – which is good news for everyone, except the poor.
  • A time for family and friendship – which is good news for all except the lonely and bereaved.

Consequently, some churches see it as an opportunity for:

  • Mission
  • Hospitality/Fellowship
  • Worship

In other-words, a they see it as a chance to 'redeem' Christmas. (I happen to share this view).

Why should focus on Christmas as an opportunity for mission?

1)    – It’s an open door and a free platform! But 2) It’s also a time of confusion.

The historical development of Christmas  means that the present expression of Christmas is something of a cultural mish-mash!

  • Roots in pre-Christian pagan culture
  • Christianised with the emergence of Constantine’s Christendom
  • In the present secular situation, it is often either about consumerism or “family-time”

Consequently, there is a need for biblical churches, to speak out about Christmas with clarity!

It’s an opportunity to call the culture back to the very roots of the festival they are celebrating – a reminder that “Jesus is the reason, for the season!”

The confusion of Christmas, and the need for clarity on the meaning of Christmas, can be seen all around us. One example is  David Cameron’s 2014 Christmas message via social media:

“At this important time of year for the Christian faith I send my best wishes to everyone in the UK and around the world celebrating Christmas. . . . Among the joyous celebrations we will reflect on those very Christian values of giving, sharing and taking care of others. This Christmas I think we can be very proud as a country at how we honour these values through helping those in need at home and around the world. . .” David Cameron

Before I get tagged with being a 'hater', let me first say that there is nothing wrong with those values in and of themselves. And in a sense, this is also true about the Prime Minister's message. On the one hand the Prime Minister is attempting to say something nice and warm.

What’s he doing?

He’s giving a “nod” to the UK’s Christian past; a “nod” to the UK’s Christians; and a “nod” to pluralism.In other words – he is doing what he does as the Prime Minister of a pluralistic Kingdom. He is greeting people with “Merry Christmas” in the same way that he greets Muslims with happy “Ramadan” and Jews with happy “Yom Kippur”.

However the PM’s comment on Christmas, is more than personal opinion, it is also a reflection of the UK’s perception of Christianity. This is the “Christianity” of the UK. It’s Christianised humanism: A Christianity that is essentially about “Giving and Sharing”and is in harmony with the values of a secular UK.

This is not Christianity shaping a Christ-less culture; this is Christ-less culture shaping Christianity. It’s a reinforcement of a reductionist view of Christianity which separates the “values” of Christianity from the cross of Christianity. Secular UK has hijacked the Christian principles of ‘love your neighbour’  “, but rejected The Christian Prophet who says: “unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

As biblical churches seek to engage culture at Christmas, we need to ask ourselves — is our message merging with secular humanism or is it bringing clarity to a confused post-christendom celebration?