CHRISTMAS, CHRISTIANS, AND THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

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Christians need to get past things like “the commercialism of Christmas” and the replacing of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” It’s hard to criticize commercialism when Christians spend lots of money on gifts for family and friends. It’s hard to down commercialism because people take advantage of the spirit of this season to make a financial profit when Christians, despite differences in motivation, do the same by raising money for their causes. Regarding people’s offense at the word Christmas, we live in a pluralistic world and not everyone believes in Christ Jesus as Christians do. Nor should we expect them to.

When Jesus lived among us, he was rejected and called many names, including “crazy” and “empowered by the devil;” and yet, he came to love and help people, not to be condescending because of their unbelief.

When Jesus lived among us, he was rejected and called many names, including “crazy” and “empowered by the devil;” and yet, he came to love and help people, not to be condescending because of their unbelief. It may surprise many to learn that most people who do not believe in Christ Jesus in the same way as Christians, nevertheless, are not offended at the “Merry Christmas” greeting.

People who celebrate Christmas, whether Christian or not, do so, not because of its commercial aspects, or because they understand its true meaning and have the correct greetings, but rather because of the spirit they feel it brings to the world around them – a spirit of love, peace, and goodwill. It provides relief from the harsh world we all live in. As Christians, why spoil the spirit of Christmas by presenting ourselves as grumblers and complainers, who are upset and condescending toward those who do not believe as we do. To those who read this, whether Christian or not, I would remind all of us that every religion and belief system has followers who do not represent properly their religion or beliefs, so let’s not discredit the value of any religion or belief simply because it is misrepresented.

When Jesus lived among us, he asked his followers, “Who do people say that I am?” Opinions greatly varied, and not all were good or right. Then Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Their answer was not based on what other people thought, but on what he taught, what he said about himself, and on what they observed.

When Jesus was born into this world, what he did and taught gave us a preview of God’s kingdom.

When Jesus was born into this world, what he did and taught gave us a preview of God’s kingdom. He overcame evil by doing good. He healed diseases and physical deformities, raised people from the dead, fed the hungry, gave hope to the poor, and demonstrated power to eliminate nature’s life-threatening storms. He quieted people’s inner storms, forgiving guilt, healing shame, and giving them peace. In his presence, evil forces fled, wrongs done to fellow humans were not approved of, and false religion was challenged with his truth. He loved his enemies and sympathizers with his compassion, his honesty, and his revealing of truth. Jesus was kind to people and offered the hope of a coming kingdom. He showed us, in part, what that kingdom will be like; no more sickness, pain, death, or evil of any kind, but one of righteousness, peace, and joy.

How strange that the kind of life we say we long for and want, the kind of life partially represented today by the Spirit of Christmas, was met with scorn, cruelty, and crucifixion. Truly, our human ways are not the ways of God. God created us in his image; to mirror that image by displaying what he is like. Christ is the only human to do that perfectly. The fact that I need Christ to restore me to his likeness reminds me that we are Christians, not because of any merit of our own, or because we are better than others are, but only because of God’s love and mercy toward us through what Christ Jesus did for us and is doing in us.

Our purpose as Christians is to represent that Spirit to the world by allowing the Spirit of Jesus Christ to live within and through us in such a way that others will believe that Jesus does make a difference. As Christians, we are to promote the true Spirit of Christmas, not spoil it by wrongly reacting to those who do not value the same beliefs we do. In all we do, Jesus would say to do it with love and compassion, not as the world defines love, but as he defines it, and lived it for all to see. People pay more attention to an example than to a degrading or nagging critical spirit.

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Jay Ashbaucher
Jay Ashbaucher is a native of Northwest Ohio and is currently a retired pastor and published author. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and has been a pastor and teacher in Montana for over 44 years. Jay taught grief classes in a hospital setting, and worked for twenty years as a fifth-step counselor and lecturer in an alcoholic-drug treatment center getting to know the hearts of people struggling to get well. While pastoring in Montana, he had enjoyed racquetball, hunting, fishing, and traveling the Big Sky State. Now living in Southeast Michigan, Jay enjoys his family, reading, hiking, golf, time with friends, and time with his fun-to-be-with wife. They have two happily married children and seven grandchildren.