Saturday, 23 December 2017

Can We Unhijack Christmas?

It’s that time of year again.

People are fighting over giant screen TVs at Tesco, or is it Asda? Charities are making the most of the festive spirit to grab some much needed funds. Carols are being sung by all and sundry as the non-religious pile into church for their token yearly appearance. Adults are looking forward to the extra time off work as they plan menus…and ensure there is enough alcohol in the house. Children are getting excited about the impending visit of Santa Claus!

Meanwhile, Christians bemoan the fact that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost, but set about trying to make the most of the opportunity to reach their friends and neighbours with the Gospel, regardless.

I confess that I’ve been one of those serial complainers over the years as Christmas in the Western world seems to have been hijacked by the “any reason for a party” and the “spend, spend, spend” brigade.

So, what’s different about this year? you might be wondering.

Perhaps it’s just me, but there seems to be more religious apathy in the air this Christmas than usual. Granted, I have only spent one of the last six in this country, but the hard-heartedness and eye rolling is definitely more prominent than last year!

The reason Christians make a special effort to reach people at Christmas is because the opportunity is already there. There isn’t that awkwardness as you try to find a way to bring God or church into a conversation. People are already thinking about peace on earth and goodwill to all men and might well be interested in delving deeper into the matter.  

At least, this has been the case over the years as even those who can’t face any type of evangelism seem to find a way to gather the courage to invite people to their carol service.

This year, however, I witnessed contempt and mockery towards those of us who “still believe in God.” People annoyed by street preaching disrupting their shopping experience or even by carol singing reminding them of the birth of Jesus….and their sin. Others refusing the opportunity to listen to the Christmas Message or getting irritated by a Gospel leaflet offering them hope.

Mostly, though, it’s indifference rather than outright hostility: a lack of interest in anything religious and a failure to see the relevance for their lives here and now.

People are milling about, frantically making preparations for the biggest celebration of our annual calendar. Yet, so many now don’t believe the Bible story of Christmas or in the God who wrote it. 

What exactly are people celebrating? you might ask….

Why is our entire year geared towards preparing for this big event if no one remembers, or wants to know what it’s all about? Aren’t we then just akin to mindless lemmings going along with a senseless celebration because it cheers us up or gives us something to look forward to?

My brother had it right when he wrote this poem in his journal at some point before he tragically died in a car accident at the age of 18, in 2002:

“We spend our entire lives searching for happiness and never find it.
Somehow we believe in a forlorn hope that things can only get better.
As we grow old we still cannot grasp the reality of life.
We console ourselves by saying, ‘we had a good life.’
And the blindness that enshrouds us makes us believe this until we die.
What is the reality of life?
That life is meaningless without God.”

 James Vellacott (1984-2002)

We have been designed to worship the God who created us. If we reject Him, our sinful nature will just find something, or someone else to worship; food, possessions, money, alcohol and sex will all be distractions and idols for many this Christmas.

Is it even possible for the true meaning of Christmas to be presented to needy souls this year? Of course it is, anything is possible with God.

The real question is, will you be listening? and what will be your response?

"For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

John 3 vs 16

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