When Christians take the Christ out of Christmas
This is a condensed, blog-friendly version of my sermon from yesterday. Listen to it here.
The so-called “War on Christmas” has been beaten nearly to death. On one side, many Christians believe that using words like X-mas and wishing someone “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” are the mildest forms of a more-or-less systematic attack on Christmas (and by extension, the Christian foundations of American culture). This camp believes – and rightly so – that you cannot and should not take the Christ out of Christmas. (by the way, go read this)
On the other side, many recognize that America is becoming increasingly pluralistic, and in an effort to welcome other faiths and cultures into the dominant culture, are removing the most explicitly religious elements of Christmas celebrations. This camp believes – and rightly so – that there’s a lot you can do around the holidays that doesn’t have to involve Jesus.
I’m not interested in taking a side in the War on Christmas (though as usual, Jon Stewart is pretty spot-on). I’m more interested in how those who call themselves Christians are fighting this “War”.
Christians are taking the Christ out of Christmas by the way we treat our enemies in this “War”.
Revelation 5 shows us the most compelling picture of how Jesus fights. John is lamenting the crushing reality of sin: The will of God is pictured as a scroll that no one is worthy to open. But in the midst of John’s despair, he’s told:
Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll. — Revelation 5:5 (NLT)
Jesus is introduced as a conquering Lion. We like this image of how God judges sin. We like Aslan-god, who judges the wicked and destroys evil.
That’s what makes John’s revelation of Jesus so shocking:
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. — Revelation 5:6 (NLT)
Instead of Jesus, the conquering Lion, we get Jesus the sacrificed Lamb. That’s a huge difference. It’s not like John was told he would see a lion, then saw a tiger. A dead Lamb is about as far from a powerful, conquering Lion as you can get.
This is how God is revealed to us: God is not a conquering Lion, but a sacrificed Lamb.
Jesus wins by losing. Jesus conquers by dying. It’s the ultimate reversal. The problem is, Christians are fighting the War on Christmas like Lions, not Lambs.
I was at a Christmas Eve gathering once when I overheard a woman proclaim belligerently,
Pastor, I tell people to have a Happy HOLYdays and a Merry CHRISTmas.
Her tone was decidedly Lion-ish. She had turned what are meant to be words of welcome and peace into weapons. Her words intended to enforce her will on others, to remake their desires to align with hers. This is the way of the Lion.
When Christians fight like Lions, we take the Christ out of Christmas.
Whichever side of the “Holiday Wars” Christians find ourselves on, to follow the way of the Lamb doesn’t mean we give in to the other side. The way of the Lamb isn’t about surrender. It’s about victory-through-weakness.
We must be asking, How do I love those with whom I disagree? Instead of fighting to defend my own interests, how can I serve them, put their needs ahead of my own?