Christmas means a lot of different things to different people. For some it is a time of drunkenness, debauchery, and crime. Others feel lonely because someone forgot them. Some are weighed down under the burden of many activities and the pressure of shopping.
Then there are those who are dismissive of the whole thing. They point out that Christ nowhere in the Bible commanded us to observe his birth. They remind us that many of the customs of Christmas, including that of setting up an evergreen in the house, are of pagan origin.
A few go so far as to say that the whole business of Christmas is an abomination. They will not give or accept gifts and refuse to let their children participate in Christmas activities.
I confess that at one time I came under the influence of those who were cynical about Christmas. I too emphasised that there is too much greed and commercialism at this time of the year. I was downright anti-Christmas.
Then one year on Christmas day I was listening to the Today Show, as I often did in the morning. Following his news programme, Frank Blair announced that his contribution to Christmas day would be to read Luke’s account of the birth of Christ in its entirety.
He did. In his deep mellow voice, with artistic accentuations and inflections, he slowly read the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
I began to think. It would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a church or TV evangelist to purchase time to tell the world about God’s gift of his Son. Even if time could have been purchased, not nearly as many people would be listening to a preacher as listened to Frank Blair that day. Besides, I do not know any preacher who could have done as good a job as he did.
At that moment, I ceased being critical about Christmas. I thanked God that, in spite of all the paganism, commercialism, and greed, the Lord planned that at one time in the year the whole world would be reminded that his Son was born to save us.
Sure, Christmas can be abused; what good thing can’t be? But it also can be a blessing.
John F. Thornbury served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky