This is an excerpt from a sermon which I preached last year. It seems appropriate to state these truths yet again.
Christmas was a messy affair. I don’t mean that it was messy because there was too much tinsel and garland scattered about either. Christmas was messy because this world is a messy place. It was into this mess that our Maker came.
If you think about the first Christmas and it leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside then you aren’t doing it right. We have been conditioned to think about that scene in Bethlehem like we think about cuddly kittens, playful puppies, and shiny rainbows after a nice summer rain. We just turn into mindless mush-heads.
Every year the Christian community whips itself into a frenzy over the secularism that has attached itself to our Holy Day. The Church decries the blatant commercialism that permeates the season with a loud voice. “Jesus is the reason for the season!” “Keep Christ in Christmas!” Then everyone lights some candles, dresses up like wise men, drinks eggnog and feels quite pleased with themselves. “We have saved Christmas.” But Christmas doesn’t need saving…we do.
If commercialism is the besetting sin of the secular crowd then, undoubtedly, sentimentalism is the crippling sin that afflicts the church. Every year we get better at rewriting the history of Christmas. Every year it gets just a little cleaner, a little neater, a little less rough around the edges. We polish halo’s and sweep out cattle stalls. We get better at inventing warm winter nights, babies that don’t cry and animals that don’t stink. All of those “silent nights” and what not…
We want to sanitize that story because we want to white-wash our own story. We want to be the prince on the white horse instead of the troll in the Dark Tower. We want to feel good not guilty. We want to feel warm and fuzzy, not humbled and unworthy. Well, let’s just get it straight. Christmas wasn’t very merry. It was messy. It was painful. It was hard. It was mile marker number 1 on the way to a bloody cross and a lonely tomb. It was anything but sentimental.
Allow the Apostle Paul to tell us what Christmas is really about. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Tim. 1:15). So if you are bound and determined to go to war with Walmart over the Christmas trees and greeting cards, then at least know why. It’s not enough to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That statement doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t get deep enough. It doesn’t reach low enough. The truth of the matter is this: Christmas is for sinners.