The dilemma of a Christian at Christmas

Our traditions require that every year, at this time, we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians, nevertheless, ask themselves a troublesome question: “Should we continue to celebrate publicly the birth of Jesus?”

In a society like ours, in fact, where more and more people declare themselves ‘without a religion’ or belonging to a different religion, Christmas celebrations are called into question or challenged. Someone would rather abolish them or change them into something else in order “to respect those who do not believe in Jesus or for whom it would be offensive.”

Others, nevertheless, say: “Christmas celebrations are part and parcel of our cultural heritage, of our European or Western identity. We must keep them and not be ashamed of them. Celebrating Christmas does not inevitably mean to be disrespectful of others. It is part of our history. We should not repudiate it”.

There is some truth in both of these attitudes. The problem, nevertheless, is also another one. This ‘Christmas’, these Christmas celebrations are somewhat problematic for those who really believe in Jesus, for those who want to follow Him in truth, for those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Why? Well, we ask ourselves: “Why should our society bother about the birth of Christ while, in reality, it has no real impact on the concrete life of those who celebrate it? It's ridiculous to celebrate it just because of our tradition. Why should we attribute to these celebrations meanings which, at best, are only marginal to the real Jesus? Is it honest to use Christmas as an excuse for something else and thus rather insult the memory of the same One whom we pretend to celebrate?”

In fact, Christians can feel alienated by some of the ‘Christmas’ celebrations they see around them.

The Christian church, in celebrating Christmas, wants to celebrate the Advent, the Coming into this World of the One who was God, who established ultimate authority, the authority in front of which all men and women will one day fall on their knees. The Scripture affirms this clearly.

The Old Testament already widely prophesied it. For example, the prophet Micah, wrote centuries before Christ:
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace” (Micah 5:2-5)
The Apostolic preaching proclaims Jesus of Nazareth thus:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
For the Christian faith, Jesus is “the Lord”, that is the supreme authority to whose Word our whole life is to be submitted. He is the expression of the ultimate authority of the Universe, from whom our whole existence depends. He is the One who, with amazing mercy, wants to save us from our moral and spiritual misery, for which He gave His whole life, dying of a dreadful death on a cross. The One we celebrate at Christmas is, thus, “the Lord”. This is not a foolish idea of His fanatical followers.

Even the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate said to him,
"So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:37).

Celebrating Jesus, the Christ, means to believe in Him and showing it in practice. Even today Jesus tells us:
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am” (John 13:13),
“Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (John 6:46).
In other words, He could be saying : “Why do you celebrate my birth?… Isn’t this rather a kind of joke which rightly offends me?”
Many, in fact, celebrate Christmas but, like the characters in one of Jesus’ parables, they inwardly say:
“We do not want this man to reign over us (Luke 19:14).

That is the dilemma of many Christians. They ask themselves:
“Should we celebrate Christmas or is it better and more honest to forget it altogether?”
Let us hope that our answer to this question, at a personal level, will be:
“I will celebrate the birth of Christ, taking Him seriously and becoming a real follower.”

Are we ready to face the consequences of any other answer?