Bible Society of South Africa
Hennie Symington

Change, Advent and Christmas – Day 7

Have we lost Christmas?

Bible text(s)

(Lk 2.1–7)

18This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. 19Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately. 20While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. 21She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus — because he will save his people from their sins.”

22Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true, 23“A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).

24So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to do. 25But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25GNBOpen in Bible reader

Christmas is probably the most pervasive, most celebrated, most inclusive, most common, most wide-spread Christian celebration on earth. Yet, for many, it has the least spiritual meaning, the most sentiment, the sweetest childhood memories and probably the greatest measure of cynicism attached to it. Stores cannot wait to cash in on the generosity and spirit of giving generated by this feast. In some countries, Christmas trees sprout up in stores the week after Halloween. And soon, the first notes of “Jingle bells” or “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” will be sounding in every hallowed shopping mall in sight, with goodwill and joy churned up on cue.

“Oh but,” some of us will say, “isn’t it marvellous that people of all persuasions – religious or otherwise – are reminded of the values Jesus stood for? Peace, goodwill, the brotherhood of all mankind and giving. Surely, all of these capture the spirit of Christmas?”

Well, at the risk of being the “Grinch who stole Christmas”, I need to point out to you that Christmas is not just a free for all! It is first and foremost about the birth of Jesus – the coming of God to earth in the flesh, to make salvation real. Perhaps, it’s time to set our treasured sentiments aside and save Christmas from those who reduce it to mere folklore, or those who love to turn it into a sentimental journey, into a long forgotten childhood or “doing it for the kids/grandchildren”.

On a visit to any shopping mall during the Christmas season, you will find the birth of Christ (I’m hesitant to call it Christ Mass) slipping away. What about me? And you? Instead of going into “holier than thou” mode, should we not ask ourselves: What am I, or what are you and your family planning on doing to revive the memory of the night when heaven and earth touched souls – when the Infinite One reached out to mankind, to assure them of his everlasting and eternal love. Let’s begin Advent by preparing to celebrate Immanuel – God reaching out to us. What a glorious Christmas that would be!

Bible Society of South Africav.4.14.1
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