Friday, December 2, 2011

I Invite You to Join Me in the Recovery of a Christian Christmas

By Rev. Randy Carter

Please read the title of this article. Yes, a “Christian Christmas.” It seems strange that the Christian church would have to fight to recover a season in the church calendar that has the word “Christ” in it. But, would you disagree that much of what happens in our culture during Christmas has nothing whatsoever to do with the remembrance of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh? Is Christmas even recognizable beyond an exercise in rampant, unbridled consumerism? Ask your children, “What is your favorite thing about Christmas?” Will they answer the family meal, the visit to Grandma and Grandpa, or the special parties and get-togethers with friends and others in the community? No. They will answer with one word: presents.

Presents are good. I give presents during Christmas. In fact, gift-giving during Christmas can be a sign of the divine gift-giving we celebrate at Christmas. If we can remember why we give gifts during the Christmas season, we can utilize the practice to teach the real lesson: God so loved the world that he gave His very best gift, His only Son, that whoever might receive this gift would receive also the gifts of forgiveness of sins, of hope for the present and future, and of eternal life. I am certain that a Mom with a Wal-Mart basket full of toys wishing Wal-Mart would bring back layaway practices so she could buy more than anyone has ever needed so she can be the coolest Mom ever has missed the point of the divine gift-giving.

It is not only the presents problem. It is a waiting problem. You’ve heard this before from me, but here it comes again. Before December 25th, the season of Advent invites us to wait and anticipate. Advent allows us to hope for Christmas to arrive so that when December 25th (and the 11 days that follow 12/25 that comprise the 12 days of the Christmas season) does arrive we feel joy and excitement that Christmas has come – similar to those who waited for the Messiah and felt joy and excitement over the news of the birth of the Savior. Here is what I think happens too often: we start hearing Christmas music in late October, we are inundated with commercials and sales flyers full of red and green by early November, we celebrate Thanksgiving with our eyes more focused on Black Friday than the bountiful feast before us, and then December finally arrives. All that before December even appears on the calendar! December, then, ends up becoming a pressure-packed month of worry and panic knowing that time is running out before the big day. And, when Christmas Day dawns (literally for many of you with young children), people are so sick and tired of all things Christmas they can hardly wait to see it go. That makes me so sad.

What, then, would recovering a Christian Christmas entail? Much more than I can write in this article, but here’s a start. First, wait and experience Advent. Second, reflect long and hard about the point of the presents and how the practice of gift-giving can be a sign of the great divine gift-giving. Third, ask yourself if your children truly understand Christmas and work to be sure they do. Fourth, if there are 12 days of the Christmas season (12/25 – 1/5), is there anything Christmas-related you can do after 12/25 to take reduce the stress before 12/25? Fifth, can your family find or create a way to serve others this Christmas (again, not just on 12/25, but during the 12 day season)?

What are your ideas? I’d love to hear them.

The Lord be with you all, Randy

Randy Carter is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Hillsborough, NC. This article first appeared in their church newsletter, The Messenger.


  1. My wife is leading our oldest son (9 years old) through a nightly Christmas devotional. He complains that it is boring, but she is diligently planting seeds of faith in him that will flower as he grows older. Also, we extend the feeling of the season through programs at church and through family activities like driving around to look at Christmas lights and baking Christmas cookies. I know not all of our activities point directly to Jesus, but some of them do. And all of them draw us together as a family. Of course my kids (9, 4, 2) get into a frenzy about presents, but Christmas has become a special family time for us for more than just the materialism of it all. And I really respect my wife's work (which adds to what the church does) to help our oldest child see Christmas with a Christian worldview. -R. Tennant

  2. Rob,

    Thanks for your comment!

    It sounds like you are doing wonderful family activities together, and planting the right seeds.

    I remember as a kid having a great illustrated book that walked through the story of Jesus. While I was still excited about presents, I think it planted the right seeds. Now, as an adult, I love to take the time to slow down and listen to the growing message of hope contained in the text. One of my favorite texts is Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1. How amazing that a pregnant, unmarried woman would have the strength and confidence to proclaim that message--certainly those beside Elizabeth, Joseph and close friends would not have been very understanding!

    Advent and Christmas blessings to you!