20th December 2010

Christmas—Commerce or Christ?

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship him’….”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NKJV)

For many people Christmas is a commercial festival. Christmas cards are in the shops from July or earlier, charity Christmas card sales brochures go out in August, and from around mid-October television commercials for toys, presents of all sorts, food and drink, the latest CDs and computer games, dominate our TV screens. Retailers gear up earlier and earlier, with Christmas carols playing over their PA systems, stores decorated brightly, and stocked with the latest ‘must-haves’. The success, or otherwise, of the Christmas season is judged by how much spending goes up or down.

The giving and receiving of gifts defines the season for our retailers. The more we can be persuaded to spend, the better. If they are not careful, parents feel the pressure to give the latest and most expensive toys and gadgets, while children are taught that it’s all about what you get, not what you give. So, many people whether Christians or not, dislike the commercialism of Christmas.

Swamped under all the commercial focus, the true meaning of Christmas can be lost, even for some Christians. So should Christians have a negative and judgemental view of it and despair at the crass commercialism of this important time of year? Or should they welcome it as a time when, whatever people’s beliefs, there is a vague awareness that it is a significant festival which has something to do with Christ? Of course, no serious Christian scholar believes Christ was born on December25, but it may be called Christ’s official birthday, just as the Queen has a real and an official birthday. If Christians focus only on December 25 and the overindulgence in food, drink and expensive presents, they will indeed have a negative view of this wonderful time.

Christians should know and celebrate that this is a time called Advent, which runs for most of the month, and it is not just a single day. It is a time to think about and reflect upon the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, as a human being, but also to think about and reflect on his future second coming in power and glory to save humanity from themselves.

If seen in the light of the commercialism of this season, it’s easy to think the world has forgotten God. But God has not forgotten the world. In his immeasurable grace he sent his son to die for all humanity. In his own timescale, Christ will return and wipe away all the tears, suffering and pain that fills the world today, as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-­17.

Christmas should be, and is, a time of rejoicing for Christians; a time to focus on God’s love and the future. It’s a time of joy and a time for reflection on what Christ has done. A time to look forward to the wonderful future for all humanity when Christ returns.

Merry Christmas to all our readers, from Grace Communion Church, the Leeds congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Our loving Father, despite the commercialism of Christmas, let the light of your truth shine through, so that people realise the importance of the birth, death and resurrection of your Son, our personal Saviour, Jesus Christ, and we look forward to his return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Study by Keith Hartrick 

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