Several years ago, I worked in shoes sales at Nordstrom. During the time from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, an extremely high volume of customers walked through our doors. As such, the management at Nordstrom was (and surely still is) concerned about offending anyone during the holiday season. We had gift cards specifically for Christmas and Hanukkah along with a plethora of generic “Happy Holidays” options. Additionally, the salespeople were strongly encouraged not to use “Merry Christmas” during any form of salutation. (That was the case in my department, at least.) As a Christian, I was initially offended and even defiant toward management. I imagined that I was being bold by using the forbidden words to customers, representing Christ in a fallen world under the oppression of an equally fallen company.
The point I was ultimately missing, and I believe many Christians miss this time of year, is that reflecting Christ at Christmas is significantly more than the words we use to greet one another. Charlie Daniels recently proclaimed that “there ain’t no ‘X’ in Christmas,” blasting those who rail against the celebration of “CHRISTmas.” Sorry, Charlie, but it’s a lot bigger than that. (And history might just disagree with your X-mas theory.)
Of course, we should fight for the truth of this universe-shaking occasion and not shy away from those who intend on “taking Christ out of Christmas,” but we must also remember that particular jargon is extremely minimal in the broad scope of the Christian mission. Jesus Christ stepped into human history and suffered the cross with joy (Heb. 12:2) for much more than what a salesperson says to a customer in the checkout line. In hopes of steering us toward a much more gospel-centered approach to Christmas, let me propose a few ways that we can make a true impact this season.
1. Pray – It’s much more powerful to come before the throne of God than it is to war against those who don’t want to recognize Christ’s birth on December 25th. While we can picket companies or risk losing our jobs over a two-word phrase, we may do better to ask God to radically change the hearts of those who do not know Christ and the power of his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming. The works and words of Jesus are significantly more life-changing than our own.
2. Serve – No matter your worldview, this time of year often brings people together in service. It is not hard to realize that we are incredibly blessed, especially when the less fortunate might be looking for a place to sleep while you are opening gifts by your fireplace. Join hands with anyone who is willing and find opportunities to bless those around you in the name of Jesus.
3. Be a Family Missionary – Chances are you have friends and relatives who do not know Christ. Above all other duties, you are a missionary first and foremost. Whether it’s reminding your family of the true reason for celebration or sharing Christ with an uncle, this is one of the few opportunities to interact with loved ones from far away and a built-in excuse to talk about Christ. Giving gifts is wonderful and brings momentary joy, but giving the hope of salvation is eternally beautiful.
4. Be Thankful – It’s so easy to forget that being thankful strongly changes our attitudes. When we remember that we not only have families, jobs, homes, etc. but that we have a Savior who lives to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25), our perception of Christmas changes drastically. Shopping lines are long, traffic is crazy, and the world around is often ungrateful, but this doesn’t change the fact that the glory of God manifested itself in the God-man, Jesus Christ. May we submit our hearts in gratitude to God.