Summary: Christmas this year is very different from before because of the pandemic. But God can use this challenging situation to bring back the true meaning of Christmas.
Let’s read Luke 10:38-42 and Isaiah 1:13-14. We are only days away from the biggest birthday celebration in the world! There has been a debate over the actual birthday of Jesus Christ. Alfred Edersheim, the famous Jewish researcher and author, suggested that December 25 is a reasonable date for Christ's birth. The first one is that very early on, going back to about 180 or 181 AD, we have Church Fathers, such as Theophilos, saying that Jesus was born on December 25. In 189 AD, patriarch Demetrius of Alexandria also wrote that Jesus was born on December 25.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, nine-in-ten Americans (90%) — and 95% of Christians — say they celebrate Christmas. Christmas this year is entirely different from before. Usually, since November, millions of people flock to shops and malls to buy Christmas gifts for their family and friends. Everywhere we see the Christmas tree and decorations. Shops and malls play Christmas carols. Churches are also busy preparing for Christmas celebrations and services. Entering the middle of December, airports, train stations, and streets are filled with people returning home or visiting their parents to celebrate Christmas together.
However, this year, due to the pandemic, they cannot do those activities. For ten months, many people everywhere have to do their activities at home. Many churches have not been able to hold services in person since March 22. And now, we still cannot celebrate Christmas together at the church. Many people are disappointed because they cannot celebrate Christmas like the previous years. For them, Christmas this year is not fun, unattractive, and even sad.
I don't know how you feel about celebrating Christmas this year. But I want to invite you to think for a moment. Don't we believe that God works in everything for good to those who love Him and are called according to His plan (Romans 8:28-29)? If we believe that what God does or allows to happen is for our good, it means that this Christmas condition of 2020 is also for our good. The question is, what good is God doing in a Christmas celebration like this?
Now let's look back for a moment and ask, "Have the Christmas celebrations celebrated everywhere for many years to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?" Every December, billions of people around the world celebrate Christmas. But let's see what Christmas means and how they celebrate it. Many of them take advantage of the Christmas moment for holidays. As you see, for more and more people, Christmas is becoming a cultural holiday. “Happy holidays,” they say. Ironic since the word holiday comes from ‘holy’ and ‘day.’ Without the holy, there is no real happy day. The world wants to celebrate His birthday without using His name!
Christmas is also identical to shopping. A survey of 1,496 people this year asked them how much they spent on Christmas in 2019. If you totaled up what you spent on gifts, food, travel, decorations, and other Christmas-related expenses, would you come in above or below the national average? Summary of key findings: 93.4% of American consumers bought Christmas gifts this past year. The average consumer who bought Christmas gifts spent $928.76. 21.5% percent of respondents went into debt over Christmas. 29.7% of people who went into debt plan to pay it back with their tax returns, but almost as many have no idea how they will get out of debt.
For many people, the Christmas celebration means parties and even drinking. Little children love Christmas, not because of Jesus but because of Santa Claus who brought gifts for them. Many people do not celebrate the birthday of Jesus but want to have fun and self-indulgence at Christmas. How can they celebrate the birth of Jesus if they don't even know who Jesus is?
In churches, Christmas was full of activities, like choir, drama, and music practices, and doing “Christmas caroling,” visiting orphanage homes, etc. Doing them is undoubtedly good, but people often became exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually after Christmas ended. They did not experience the joy and peace of Christ. They celebrated Christmas but did not welcome Christ's coming into their lives! They were like Martha, who was busy welcoming the Lord Jesus into her home by serving Him, but she missed the moment with Jesus, sitting at His feet, listening to His teachings. Martha thought she was doing something right, preparing a delicious meal for Jesus. Probably she thought Jesus would say to her, “Martha, you are a great chef.” Instead, Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Haven’t many churches been like Martha in celebrating Jesus’ birth?