The December Record is out – including the usual news, views and reviews – as well Murdo Murchison, an interview with Alaister Wilson, poetry from John Milton, an article by Joe Barnard on bringing up children in a Christian home and a new bible series on Ecclesiastes. Here is the editorial –
Great Joy for All the People
As our society moves further away from its Christian roots, it seems as though it becomes even more obsessed with Christmas, a supposedly Christian festival. The lead up to Christmas in most of our towns and cities begins in mid-November, with the switch on of ‘winter’ lights. In our cities these are increasingly attended by larger and larger crowds. In my own city of Dundee, there is no way I will head down town on an Saturday weeks before Christmas – its so busy. Christmas as a means of attracting people into town centers and encouraging them to spend money they often don’t have, is a very successful secular festival.
Is Christmas Christian?
But what about as a Christian festival? It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just returning to its pagan roots. It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a celebration of the birth of Jesus (who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April). Was this a bad thing? Some of our ancestors thought so – and famously refused to celebrate Christmas. Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a normal working day – with New Year being the main festival. Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service (unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.
It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas, and its not wrong not to celebrate. Let each be persuaded in their own minds. What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ, into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness. The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich, yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.
Good News Vs Fake News
Having been someone who as a child loved Christmas, and as a young adult hated it, I am now someone who loves it. I love the opportunity to sing and speak of Christ in public, in a way that it is easier to do than at any other time of year. We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus, as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas. In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked after their flocks “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you.; he is the Messiah, the Lord”. (Luke 2:10-11).
That’s how Christmas can be great. In the midst of winter – the darkest days and the coldest nights – we can experience and know the light of the world. There are those of us who approach this Christmas with a sense of foreboding – at this family time we cannot help but think of those who are no longer with us. Perhaps we are worried about the future, finances, ill health? Perhaps we are just worn down with the drudgery of our lives? Perhaps we are weary of our own sin and spiritual struggles? Christmas can be a great blessing for us if we lift our eyes from the waves and look to Christ.
Great Joy for all
The shepherds were living in the fields. They were the despised of their communities. Their lives were hardly the most glamorous. And yet on that night as they were keeping watch over their flocks they had this extraordinary experience. At first the sight of the angel of the Lord was understandably terrifying. But then came this extraordinary message, followed by the choir of angels. They of course went to Bethlehem to see the child they had been told about and then they returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which we just as they had been told”.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this Christmas, instead of the mundane, the fearful and the gross commercialism, we were able to see and hear Christ. Lets make sure that Christmas is about Christ. A few years ago St Peters started holding a short Christmas Day service. I wasn’t sure if it would work but it has been a great success – not just in the number of people attending (some of whom rarely if ever come to church) – but because for many of us it has helped to refocus the day and help our families to realize what it really is all about.
May the Light of the World shine in the darkness for us all. I pray that whatever your circumstances, this Christmas you will be glorifying and praising God for all the things you have heard and seen.
In the light of the opportunities that Christmas gives us we should make good use of some of the great materials that are provided. For me this is one of the best – Glen Scrivener’s 4 part mini-series on Youtube…here is part one.
You can get the Record from your local Free Church – or from the Free Church offices….in the New Year we also hope to be able to put it online…