Well it’s Christmas, as you may have noticed. I could use the opportunity here for a tirade against all the materialism, consumerism and shopping insanity I suppose. Perhaps not however, for I believe that the battle against the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ of Christmas is probably largely lost. For Christmas is well and truly captured by ‘Babylon’, that is the secular city of the world, the ‘great prostitute’ obsessed with pleasure, good living, money etc. that God will ultimately destroy, and from which God tells his people to separate themselves (Revelation 18:2-5). The reality is that Australia is now a pagan country, a fact that must condition all we do as ‘church’. Probably the only thing that will rescue the celebration of Christmas (the ‘Mass’ of Christ), of the Son of God coming into our space-time to be crucified for us, is to move it. Perhaps, as is suggested more often these days, to move it to where the orthodox branches of Christianity always celebrate it i.e. on the 6th January. This would at least be a distinctly ‘Christian’ celebration which would put the ‘Holy’ (i.e. separate) back into ‘Holiday’.
However, being more positive, perhaps we should think about how we can actually use what is now the largely pagan Christmas for the Jesus whose title is still in it (for the time being anyway!) If we remember that we are ‘church’ all the time, 24/7 (the expression ‘going to church’ is really a nonsense, you can’t ‘go’ to what we already are i.e. church) then that includes times of Christmas activities, lunches, break ups, BBQ’s etc. and as such we should be acting as representatives of Jesus in those situations. This is especially true even if, as many will be, we are surrounded by those who worship ‘other gods’ e.g. pleasure, food, sport, self, family etc.
So how can we use the Christmas gatherings and activities to point to the Christ in the word Christmas? Some thoughts:
i Ditch the common greetings of ‘have a Happy or Merry Christmas’ in favour of ‘Have a Peaceful Christmas’. It might get no response more than ‘and you too’, but it may create an opportunity to refer to the purpose of Christ’s coming which was to give peace (i.e. wholeness), something most non- Christians desperately long for.
ii If asked what will you be doing at Christmas? Instead of the usual ‘spending time with family or going away’ answers, make the first thing you say ‘I will gather with other Christians to celebrate Jesus’ birth or something like that.
iii When people are talking about all the things that they will be doing or want to talk about, look for keywords that can be used to point the conversation, even if only briefly, in the direction of Jesus. Possible connections—
– “Christmas food, lunch etc”—the Jesus of Christmas came so we might be at God’s promised banquet.
– “Stressed out” – the Jesus of Christmas didn’t come to create stress but to relieve it. In fact Jesus actually told us not to worry.
– “Presents”—the original purpose was to remember the gifts given by the wise men as acts of worship to the baby Jesus.
– “Terrorism”—Jesus actually warned that there would be such things and the reason he came into the world was to ultimately overcome all such evil, and provide a life of total peace to those who follow him.
Of course our Christmas BBQ etc. conversations will often move to the normal objections to Christianity so when the inevitable ‘well I don’t believe all that religious stuff’ comes, ask them to explain why, to argue for what they believe. The majority of non-Christians cannot intelligently argue for their belief because they have not usually thought it through. So a gentle challenge to it may cause them to rethink, and may even create the opportunity for a gospel conversation. In any case it is always a good strategy to answer a challenge to our faith with a question. It puts us on the front foot rather than being defensive.
Of course a key word is ’Opportunity’. The Biblical word is ‘Kairos’. It literally means time but not in the clock-measure sense, but a time of ‘opportunity’. For everyone who comes to Christ there is a ‘Kairos’ moment in which God breaks into their life and they open the door to the Christ in Christmas. Our role, remembering that we are ‘church’ at the Christmas party, lunch or BBQ, is to be a tool for God. By opening our mouth, by seizing the ‘Kairos’ moment in a conversation, God might just use that moment to open the door for Christ to enter the person’s heart.
Remember, we are ‘church’ 24/7, and God expects us to be Kingdom representatives all the time, especially when surrounded by non-Christians particularly at Christmas events.
Have a ‘Peaceful’ Christmas as we celebrate the coming of the ‘Prince of Peace’, and use it for Jesus.