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by Jacob Ninan
For many people in the world this is recognised as a season of merry making and spending lavishly on dresses, decorations, feasts and gifts. Merchants make use of this opportunity to make huge profits bringing out new products and getting rid of others through discount sales. Religious minded Christians pay special attention to holding special services for Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas, with elaborate displays of the nativity scene, carol singing and emotional appeals to ‘peace on earth’ and ‘goodwill to all men’. After a brief respite of a couple of days festivities resume with the celebration of the New Year.
At the end of the season many are, to say the least, exhausted! They have become depleted in strength, money and even goodwill. But soon all is forgotten and life goes on as usual. If at the end of the time to remember the birth of Jesus and what that signifies for us, if all that remains with us are attempts to pay the bills and to get back to normalcy, certainly something is wrong with what we are doing.
Many Christians seem to be resigned to thinking that this is the way things are done and there is nothing they can do to change it. According to them something will be lacking if they do not have a Christmas tree or do not exchange gifts, for example. But, knowing what we human beings are like, it is likely that in most families such things take priority over thinking about Jesus or letting Him tell them what changes they need to make in their lives.
Some Christians argue about the date of Christmas, saying that while we do not know the real date of the birth of Jesus they are sure December 25 could not have been a possibility. But then others argue that having treated this date as the birthday for centuries we might as well carry on, because it gives us an opportunity to remember it and worship God for the gift of our Saviour. The moot question is whether that opportunity is being utilised effectively or the occasion becomes an excuse for revelry and extravagance.
I remember when I went to Ahmedabad years ago to take up my first job, and started looking around for accommodation. I was warned it would be difficult because I was a madrasi (slang for South Indians), a bachelor and a Christian. “What is wrong with a Christian?” I asked. The reply was that Christians would get drunk and dance! But it should be well known that the Christmas-New Year season is notorious worldwide for drunken driving and accidents, even though it is not all about Christians.
We may have special occasions like the birthday of Jesus, the day of His death and the day of His resurrection to remember Him, worship Him, learn from Him and to rededicate our lives to Him. We know that many nominal Christians attend church only on these days. But for those who claim to be born of God and desire to follow Him shouldn’t there be something about our life that makes us different from the rest of the people irrespective of what time of the year it is?
Being born through a supernatural work of God in a virgin woman called Mary, Jesus was fully God and fully Man. As a Man He faced every temptation we come across and overcame them all (Heb.4:15). By the way He lived and the things He taught He revealed God to us and also showed us an example of a godly life for us to follow (Jn.1:18;14:6). In the end He took on the punishment for the sins of the whole world, demonstrating the love of God to us, so that anyone could now approach God by placing his trust in Him (Jesus) (Jn.3:16). The way the Father raised Him from the dead on the third day proved beyond doubt that He was indeed what He claimed to be.
Jesus was a Man who was born with a mission. He came to save us from our sins and to give us an abundant life (Matt.1:21;Jn.10:10). If we say we believe in Him, and that He has forgiven and accepted us children of God, shouldn’t our lives show it? If the world sees us celebrating our festivals just as people of other religions do with their festivals, with pomp and show, and there is no real difference they can observe in the way we celebrate them that highlights His mission or its effect on our lives, what would they be led to conclude?
We cannot change what the world does in what they call the ‘Holiday Season’. But each of us who has received grace to know Jesus personally can do something about what we do. That will be our gift and witness to the rest of the world.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, December 2013
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