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Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Secular Christmas: Its Absurdities and Antidote

Many of us are struck this time of year by all the attempts of the unbelieving culture to celebrate Christmas without making any acknowledgement of Jesus.  Every time unbelievers say, “Christmas,” they say His name - Christ - but what they truly desire is all the trappings of the holiday without the Person.  

The holiday exists as a celebration of the birth of the Son of God come into the world to redeem sinners by His perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection.  All the darkness of the human experience is a result of sin’s separating man from God, which culminates in man’s eternity under His omnipotent wrath.  Christ came to remedy that horror with the result that the one who has faith in Him is reconciled to God, will eventually be rid of all sin’s horrible effects, and will spend eternity with Him in paradise.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the only reason to truly rejoice in this broken world.

Yet, for the vast majority of people, Jesus is an uncomfortable, unspoken detail of the holiday that they are eager to leave obscured.  This leads to a host of seasonal absurdities that are a secular Christmas:  

There is the meaningless tradition of gift-giving.  According to an annual survey by MagnifyMoney, people who added Christmas debt last year did so to an average tune of $1,054.  That’s right - they added over a thousand dollars in debt celebrating a holiday they have absolutely no reason to celebrate.  And what is the reason for giving gifts on December 25?  The believer can answer this question, “we do this to commemorate the fact that God loved us and gave us His Son.”  But those who desire a Christ-less Christmas can give no answer but, “we just do.” 

There is the hollow well-wishing of joy and “cheer.”  Are people more happy this time of year?  Perhaps, but it’s temporary and illogical.  Christmas for many is like an emotional and mental vacation from their problems.  It’s a time-out from reality.  For these few days, the secular world pretends there is a reason to be happy.  But for those headed for a literal, eternal hell, what is there to be joyful about?  Read the chronicles of the Old Testament of the people steeped in sin, separated from the God who made them (Judges 2).  Read about the people drunk on their rebellion and the spiritual blindness it caused them (Jeremiah 44).  This isn’t joy; it’s delusion.  The sorrows of those who run after another god will multiply (Psa 16:4).  The irony is as thick as black darkness - they wish joy to one another, while ignoring the only true source of it.

There is the pervasive admonition to “make the world a better place.”  This is a hallmark of the season.  Based upon the typical secular Christmas lyrics, I’m guessing this means just being kinder to one another.  Let’s be better people.  But that’s just the problem, isn’t it?  We can’t be better people.  Man is the reason the world is so terrible.  For all our attempts at self-reform, we end up right back where we started - hating God and hating one another (Rom 1:30; Titus 3:3).  The only one who can make the world a better place is the One who came to rid it of sinners - the Christ of Christmas (1 Tim 1:15; Rev 20:13-15).

We may scratch our heads about all this - and even become embittered against our secular culture for denying Christ His due.  But if we follow the theology and storyline of Scripture, we will find a better understanding of the problem and a more productive response.  There is a reason people celebrate Christmas - clinging to all the trappings of joy and attempting some transcendent meaning - while rejecting the real reason for the holiday: this is what man has always done and all that man can do in his lostness on God’s earth.  And the appropriate response of believers should be to herald all the more His coming, dying, and living again.

The fallen man is trapped by his own sinful heart in an absurd position.  He owes his existence to a God whose existence he is determined to deny (Gen 1:26; Psa 14:1).  While following after his own desires and worshiping created things, he cannot but depend upon his Creator for the air he breathes, the food he eats, all the biological processes that sustain him, and the grace that allows him to remain anywhere other than hell (Rom 1:18-21; Psa 104).  In his self-professed wisdom, he is a fool (Rom 1:22).  He wants meaning and joy and life, but without God.  Yet, God - from whom he is estranged by his sin - is the only One who can give him these things (Psa 16:11).  His only hope to be saved from this pitiful state is to believe on Jesus Christ.  However, because he is dead in trespasses and sins, he is incapable of seeing the truth (Eph 2:1-3; Joshua 24:19).  

His eyes must be opened.  And how does this happen?  Blind eyes are opened by the proclamation of the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).  

So…may our response to the absurdity of a secular Christmas NOT be mere lamentation, but proclamation of the very Christ the world would just as soon ignore.  Compassion should move us to be more overt in the Christ-centeredness of our Christmas celebrations and conversations.  Many of us deplore the Christ-less shape of Christmas around us.  But are we willing to boldly proclaim Him into that darkness?  He is the only One who can dispel it!  


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