It’s tradition. Lots of people who don’t typically go to church or wouldn’t sing about Jesus will do that for Christmas. They’ll show up, they’ll sing, they will enter in to what they think Christmas is “all about.”
And lots of churches will seek to cater to those visitors and present a message and a program and an experience that will help those visitors feel welcomed.
I don’t think that is all together a bad thing. But there is a risk involved. The Christmas service might be shaped in such a way that the Christmas message is overlooked or lost in a desire for unchurched people not to feel uncomfortable.
That got me thinking . . . about the first Christmas.
The birth of Jesus was such an astounding event that a night sky was filled with an angel choir–and the shepherds who were introduced to what God was doing were initially afraid (Luke 2:8-14). The birth of Jesus was such a life-altering event that wise men from afar travelled to do homage to the new-born king–and they altered their lives for months to discover more about this child born (Matthew 2:1-2). The birth of Jesus was so unexplainable an occurrence that even Mary was caught up in the wonder of it all–and she had to ponder what it all meant (Luke 2:19). The birth of Jesus was so world-changing that the king in the region felt threatened by the announcement–and out of fear sought to bring an end to that announcement (Matthew 2:7-16).
Although the announcement the angels made was “tidings of good news,” everyone didn’t feel comforted by what was happening. The shepherds were fearful, the wise men undertook a long and costly journey, Mary was left wondering, and Herod was angry.
It might be that for those who visit church once (or twice) a year need to hear the message of Christmas in all of its raw and unadulterated power. We don’t have to “tame” Christmas to make it more acceptable to those who don’t know the Savior. We don’t have to worry if they end up a bit fearful, or find themselves journeying long to understand what it is all about, or are left with questions needing answers, or even if they end up angry because if this message is true life is going to have to change.
So, let’s welcome visitors to our churches. But let’s also feel free enough to tell them the truth about Christmas.
A king has come. He has taken up his rule. He will rule forever. That fearful, challenging, and provocative message is what Christmas is all about. And we do not have to worry about taming down that announcement–we can celebrate all that it means!