Summary: Make room for Jesus during the busy Christmas season.
"Don't Crowd Christ Out of Christmas"
There is a new movie on the shelves at video stores around town. The movie is last winter's big hit, Jingle All the Way. The movie shows us how a successful Christmas is closely tied to getting the right gift for our loved ones -- no matter what we have to pay or who we have to whip, even if it is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The moral of the story seems to be that you can buy your way to a merry Christmas.
The story of Jingle All The Way evidently plays well in a secular culture that depends on holiday gift-giving to keep retailers in business. As we listen to the reports on the evening news it is not difficult to understand that for us as Americans to have a good Christmas the cash registers need to be singing for all the world to hear. The day after Thanksgiving I heard a report on a local newscast that "we are off to a good start this Christmas as sales are up 5.3%. I'm sorry my friend but the increase in spending has nothing to do with how well Christmas will fare for you or me.
What is really interesting is a new poll that has been released by the Barna Research Group that confirms the fears of those like myself who doubt that most Americans don't understand the "reason for the season."
The Barna Research Group poll, conducted for the Lutheran Hour Ministries found that:
37% of adults in the national survey (88% of whom identified themselves as Christian) said the birth of Jesus is the most important aspect of Christmas.
More than 75% of evangelical Christians placed Jesus' birth as of first importance on Christmas.
Only 32% of those who identified themselves as fundamentalists gave that answer.
Only 29% of Catholics placed Jesus' birth first.
Only 24% of theological liberals said the birth of Christ made Christmas important for them.
44% of the respondents said family time is the most important part of one of the three most sacred days (along with Good Friday and Easter) on the calendar.
26% of respondents ages 18 to 34 said the birth of Jesus was the most important aspect of Christmas.
39% among respondents 65 and older said the same thing.
Only 3% said presents or parties were the most important part of Christmas.
The same percentage that said the best thing about Christmas was getting a paid holiday.
"I guess it demonstrates what preachers have been wringing their hands over for some time: Christ has been evacuated from Christmas," said the Rev. William Willimon, a theologian and Duke University chaplain. "It's good to know where we are. Christmas has been a co-opted holiday."
"Americans are more likely to correctly recall the significance of April 15 than they are to connect Christmas with the birth of Jesus. As America becomes increasingly anesthetized to Christian principles and practices, it seems only fitting that we have contracted acute amnesia regarding the spiritual significance of December 25," said pollster George Barna. Barna goes on to say, "Even with all that I know about how secularized our culture has become, I would have thought that more people would say Christmas, the birth of Jesus."
George Barna's findings reinforce a conclusion I have drawn from watching people through the years. We have crowded Christ right out of Christmas. In His place we filled our time with parties, we have filled our checkbooks with gifts to those whose birthday falls at other times of the year, and we have filled our hearts with anxiety and fear that we won't be able to find the "right" gift rather than with peace that comes from the true Gift.
There is a lot of misunderstanding this time of year. There are so many who fail to understand what Christmas is all about and as a result this glorious, joy-filled time of year is turned into the most frantic, frustrating season of all.
I read about a FAMILY CIRCUS cartoon where a little girl was sitting with her little brother on her lap. The little girl was telling her brother the Christmas story. According to her version, Jesus was born just in time for Christmas up in the North Pole surrounded by eight tiny reindeer and the Virgin Mary. Then Santa Claus showed up with lots of toys and stuff and some swaddling clothes. The three wise men and the elves all sang Christmas carols while the Little Drummer Boy and Scrooge helped Joseph trim the tree. In the meantime, Frosty the Snowman saw the star.
We are confused about Christmas. We seek the mall instead of the manger. We follow the sales instead of the star. We kneel to hurriedly open presents instead of to worship the newborn King.