At long last, it's the most wonderful time of the year! The church calendar has caught up with the rest of our culture, who has been celebrating Christmas with its holiday-themed store displays and gingerbread lattes for weeks—if not a couple months! I'm thrilled to join with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, ‘be of good cheer’!
Indeed, Merry Christmas! Or, more appropriately,
As the song says, it's the "hap-happiest season of all," especially when we allow this season to prompt us in celebrating the birth of the promised Messiah and the beginning of a new liturgical year.
And yet, if I'm honest, amidst the parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow, Advent has brought a sort of melancholy in my life this year. No, not just because I live in Southern California and there will be no snow in which to carol. Nor because of those around us whose tale of the glories of Christmases long, long ago do not include the birth of Jesus. On the contrary, I'm melancholy this year because of how we Christians can celebrate the season.
Let me explain.
Throughout December, it's common to be admonished to "keep the Christ in Christmas" and that "Jesus is the reason for the season." And before we continue, let me be clear: I couldn't agree more! In year's past, I've used those phrases regularly both in sermons and in everyday conversation. But not this year: I've made a new liturgical year's resolution.
I've decided not to use such phrases this year because I've become convinced they are born out of a defensive posture, a posture that seeks to reclaim this month for Jesus, to take it back from those who don't share my faith. I've become convinced that this defensive posture, this fear of the "war on Christmas", is not helpful in declaring the good news of Advent to my neighbors.
At that first Christmas long, long ago, God was pleased to reveal the good news of Jesus' birth not only to religious insiders like Mary, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna, but also to outsiders. Remember the shepherds in Luke 2? They were on the lowest rungs of the social ladder, yet the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you..." Jesus was born to them! Shepherds!
And it's very unlikely that the Magi in Matthew 2 were Torah-keeping, first-century Jews (and even less likely that they were Reformed Evangelical Presbyterians). We call them “wise men,” but the early church fathers were convinced they were magicians! Yet they followed the star that led them to Jesus.
So, this Advent season, may we remember that in the town of David a Savior has been born for the whole world. A Savior has been born to those of us who know "the Reason for the season" and those of us who are thrilled about the incredible discount we got on a new flat screen TV because we got up at 5AM on Black Friday.
Whether or not we verbally remind one another to "keep the Christ in Christmas," may we do so by living so richly and so generously that our hearts would glow with the light of the star that shone over the manger so long ago. May we shine His love so brightly that this truly be the most wonderful time of the year to share our faith in Jesus, the Savior of the world.
Curtis Bronzan is the Preaching Pastor at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church of Los Alamitos, CA. He received an M.Div in Worship and a Masters of Theology in Postmodern Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Cassie, live in Long Beach and enjoy spending time with their two young children.