When a friend who is on holidays sends you a text message you expect that they are rubbing in the fact that they are on holidays and you are not. Now of course it could be that they just want to share with you something special but more often than not there will be more than just a hint of gloating. This week a friend of mine who had just arrived in New Zealand sent me a message with a picture. The message read “Front page of the local paper here in NZ”. The picture carried the headline “Mum asks school to take Christ out of Christmas.”
Now I admit to being a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. There are certain things that I would love to take out of Christmas. I would take out of Christmas the grief of that empty chair at the Christmas table. I would take out of Christmas all the sins that have contributed to family breakdown. I would remove from Christmas all the accusations and condemnations gathered over years. I would take out of Christmas all those insecurities that arrive with visiting or being visited. I would take the materialist out of Christmas. But I would never take THE GIFT out of Christmas.
If we take Christ out of Christmas, I expect that Aussies would still find a way to have a few days off. However, those days would still have grief, would be marred by sin, would find accusative tones, would bring insecurities and would leave the materialist with less than the gift. The problems would remain but with no answer, and to such days we could add frustration and disappointment.
I struggle to understand why anyone would want Christ taken out of Christmas. His resurrection fills that empty chair with hope for the grieving. That’s a gift. His death on the cross offered forgiveness for sins and a fresh start with God and each other. That’s a gift. His forgiveness ends all accusation and silences condemnation bringing peace between God and people. That’s a gift. His grace to the undeserved removes insecurity offering the assurance of a secure future with God. That’s a gift. And when this gift is received it takes the materialist out of Christmas and puts back the gift that brings gratitude. That’s a gift.
I recently suggested to students and parents that a great gift for Christmas would be to receive a copy of the first chapter of Colossians. I hastened to add that it did not need to be the only present and I must admit the students did look a little relieved at this. Colossians is a letter published in the Bible’s New Testament. In its first chapter it tells how God the Father is committed to free us from the dark things that rule over us. It tells us how God desires to place us with Jesus who pays the cost of our forgiveness. These are gifts we don’t deserve but God desires us to have them. Staggeringly these gifts come with an extended warranty into eternity, but that is not surprising when we remember that the one guaranteeing the gift is the one who created all things and defeats death by rising from it. What a gift! What a guarantor! It’s THE GIFT at Christmas, Immanuel, God with us, Jesus, the one who saves us from our sins, Christ, the King who rules. What a Gift! God with us, God for us, God in control. Jesus Christ really is the supreme gift.
You may not wrap Colossians up and place it under your Christmas tree but it’s worth a read before you open your presents, while you open presents and after you open your presents because before, during and after, Jesus will not disappoint.You should never want to take Christ out of Christmas. He is THE GIFT of Christmas that no other gift can surpass. Worse than taking Christ out of Christmas is leaving Christ out of your life. The gifts Jesus Christ offers are the things most needed and the answer to all those things we desperately wish were not part of Christmas. THE GIFT, Jesus Christ. Have a Christ filled Christmas.