And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. – Luke 2:10
We live in an increasingly balkanized culture. This time of year that division is acute as people navigate how to deal with Christmas, the celebration of which was once uncontroversial. I was talking with a gentleman last week and as we parted he said, “Have a happy, whatever you celebrate.” I thanked him and said “it’s Christmas.” He smiled and said, “have a nice Christmas.”
He wasn’t opposed to celebrating Christmas, at least I didn’t get that impression, he was just worried he might offend someone he didn’t know that well by being too specific about what he wanted them to enjoy this time of year.
There are many reasons for this, among them a misunderstanding of what Christmas celebrates – and by that I mean more than just realizing Christmas is about the birth of Christ and not primarily about presents and Santa Claus. I mean realizing that what we celebrate at Christmas is the outworking of God’s plan for all of humanity, not a culturally specific religious holiday. There are certainly culturally specific ways to celebrate Christmas but the event it commemorates applies to all humanity.
Christianity is not a “middle-eastern” religion, it is not a “western” religion, it is not a “colonialist” religion, it is not an expression of the cultural values of one segment of humanity, it is not one option among many, it is the only hope for every man, woman and child ever born not to face the wrath of God for eternity.
What we call Christmas is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:15:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
This announcement precedes the development of any people group, any nation, any culture. There are only two people on the planet when God says this. Everyone yet to be born will come from those two people. Therefore, it is God’s plan for all of humanity. He will send a Savior who will bruise the head of the serpent to reconcile to himself those from every nation, tribe and language who trust in that Savior for the forgiveness of their sins.
When we say “Merry Christmas” it’s not just a seasonal version of “Have a nice day.” It’s a celebration of God’s plan for all people, at all times, in all circumstances. It recognizes God’s sovereignty over all humanity and his gracious provision for those who are his enemies to become, not just his friends, but his sons and daughters.
So, wish your friends and neighbors a “Merry Christmas” with gusto and be willing to share with them the “reason for the season” or as the Apostle Peter says, “the reason for the hope that is in you.”