Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Reason for the Season

This time of year we hear many people expressing their concern that Christ has been removed from Christmas. In conjunction with this concern the catchy phrase "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" has been promulgated. Commercialism has been blamed as the cause of the sense of loss of meaning for the season of Christmas. Interestingly, many of these Christians who are so concerned about the materialism and commercialism of Christmas market and sell bumper stickers, tee shirts, and other paraphernalia with this slogan. "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" is promoted by TV and radio evangelists.

Until this year I never really identified what troubled me about this slogan. I often thought it was the judgmental and hypocritical attitudes that often accompany the use of the slogan. This year, however, I realized the real issue that troubled me.

This slogan is really terribly inaccurate. While Jesus is the reason for Christians to celebrate the season of Christmas, He is not the reason for the season. He is the cause or the source for the season, but He is not the reason. John 3:16 very clearly states the reason for the season, saying,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
So, according to the Holy Scriptures, and the very words of explanation that Jesus gave to Nicodemus, WE are the reason for the season. Jesus was born into the world for us. He came for our sake. He is the gift from the Father, given for our salvation. The real focus of the celebration of the nativity of our Lord is that He came to be sacrificed for us on the cross. The preaching of the season of Christmas is not the preaching of the birth of Jesus nearly so much as it is the preaching of Christ crucified for us.

Thus the real reason that the focus of Christmas has become lost can be understood from the perspective of the means of receiving Christ having been divorced from Christmas. For hardly anyone truly focuses upon the part of Christmas that forms the basis of the season, that is, the Mass. Christmas is about receiving Jesus for our salvation in the celebration of the Mass. If anything is to be blamed for taking Christ out of Christmas, it must be the separation from the right understanding of the Mass from the second chief festival of the Church year.

After all, how many Christians today even understand the Mass as Christ instituted it? Do not most Christians deny what Christ called the eating and drinking of the Holy Supper? Christ called it the New Testament in His blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins! How many people who celebrate Christmas actually take Christ at His word and come to receive His body and blood for their forgiveness as the primary focus of Christmas?

How many people who call themselves Christians actually spend their time telling the world that Jesus really did not know what He was talking about when He ordained that this Sacrament should be the main focus of His Church’s life? Is it any wonder that the Church has become so splintered that few people even believe that unity of doctrine and practice are genuinely possible? Christ gave this meal of Holy Communion to join us in Him as one body, living in the forgiveness that He was born to purchase with His life.

Truly, if we really want to "Put Christ back into Christmas," this is how it will be done. In fact, it is foolish even to speak of putting Christ back into Christmas, for Christmas is the means by which we receive Christ. In the Christ Mass Jesus gives us the very body and blood that Mary wrapped in the swaddling cloths and laid in the manger. In the Christ Mass He gives us the same body and blood that was nailed to the cross and then buried in the tomb and arose again on the third day and ascended to the right hand of power. This is the gift of John 3:16, and of Genesis 3:15-16. This is the reason that the angels sang "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

I believe that we can safely say that we are the reason for the season, we in our great need of a Savior provided by God. If we really understand this, then Christmas will be for us nothing other than Christ for us in the means that He has promised to come to us in our need. Christ cannot be taken out of Christmas. He is Christmas, for us.

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