Editor’s Note: This was written as a contribution to a New Mexico high school newspaper.
What would you think of celebrating your folk’s birthdays by getting out all their baby pictures, giving them some toys as gifts, and singing some sentimental songs about, “Sweet little daddy boy, delivered by dear Dr. Kamps and bathed by nice nurses.” What would the President or Queen of England think of our celebrating their birthdays by talking about their baby days?
But that is exactly what we do in our annual celebration of the birth of the King of the world, who is 2,000 years old, all-powerful and all-wise. Sounds just a little silly, doesn’t it, when the Bible doesn’t tell us to remember his birth, and we don’t even know what time of the year he was born?
I’m all in favor of Christmas as far as gift-exchanging is concerned, parties, decorations, vacation from school, and even Santa Claus with his reindeer. December 25 was his day first, and the church came along and tried to steal the show by saying, “Let’s pretend Jesus was born on that day.” (Happily, some parts of the church commemorates Christ’s birth in January, and in other countries they moved St. Nicholas day ahead to early December.) But the “world” whose motto is, “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em,” grabbed this suggestion of the church and said, “That’s great; we’ll have Shalako and Santa and Jesus too, but since He is no longer alive, let’s remember Him as a weak, cute, sweet little baby that we can feel lovey-dovey about, and in case there is such a person like Him still around, he sure ought to feel good toward me for thinking such nice thoughts about him once a year.”
My point is this; it’s OK to light Advent candles in church and farolitos around our homes, but don’t think about Jesus as He once was – a helpless baby who had to learn even to walk and talk – but as He is right now, saying to everybody, “I am the light of the world,” who gives everybody wisdom, whether its Einstein or a high school freshman. It’s OK to sing lots of special songs at Christmas, but let’s let the unbelievers sing “Away in the Manger,” while we sing “Crown Him with many Crowns,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” and “The Messiah,” with words taken directly from Scripture instead of songs out of Amy Grants imagination. Conversely we are just imitating the world by using Christmas carols for atmosphere and sentiment instead of praise to God if we don’t sing “Joy to the World” in July, which we don’t.
The other side of the coin is the fact that the church pays very little attention to Ascension Day or Pentecost, whose exact dates we do know, and which are far more important for our salvation than Christmas. Why don’t we? It’s simply that because the “world” ignores them, naturally, just because they don’t believe that Jesus rose to Heaven and is now running the universe (and Christmas, by means of their prayers, etc., are helping him).
This all sounds pretty heavy, and maybe out of place in a high school paper. But if changes are going to be made, young people are the ones who will have to make them. Revival (another word for good changes), has always come to the church through men and women under thirty. (Virgin Mary was only a teenager.) My generation has left yours too many bad habits, customs and examples which have to be sorted out from Him who said, “I am the truth.” Browing could have been talking about the church, and the students in this school when he said, “The best is yet to be.” God believes it; you be it.