Keep Christ in Christmas is the slogan of choice for many Christians during this time of year. We see the phrase used all over the place – from Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and Instagram pictures, to Pinterest links, blog posts and videos. However, while Keep Christ in Christmas is a good way for Jesus-followers to remember and live out the spirit of the season, the slogan should never be used as a means to force others to do so.
Here are two things Christians should consider when we use the phrase Keep Christ in Christmas in the public space –
1 | Our slogans and methods should faithfully reflect the character of Jesus and the humility of his birth
Christmas is the time of year when we reflect on that moment in history when God came to earth in the person of Jesus, assumed the fullness of human flesh, was born in a barn, accompanied only by his parents, surrounded by barn animals, and later visited by a few shepherds and sages from the East.
It was a simple night.
No pomp, ceremony, parties, celebrations or any of the activities that would normally accompany the birth of a king.
The night was steeped in humility.
One star in the sky recognized by a few Magi and an angelic visitation to a few shepherds in a field are all we read about.
For the most part, it was a calm, quiet and peaceful night.
No trumpets to herald the birth of a King. Just crying. Mary crying out in childbirth and Jesus as he was born.
The Apostle Paul referenced this same divine humility in his letter to the church in Phillipi. Chapter 2:5-11 speaks of when God the Son came to earth and assumed the fullness of what it means to be a human being.
Known in theology as the divine kenosis, or the self-emptying of Christ, Paul used what is believed to be an existing hymn to communicate the depth of God’s humility when, in Christ, He assumed human flesh. It’s a beautiful passage.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. ‘Though he was God, he did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privilege; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.’ (emphasis mine)
The attitude of humility demonstrated by Jesus when he became a human being at his birth in Bethlehem is an attitude we are also called upon to demonstrate when we speak of and point others to his birth.
That Was Then, This is Now
However, whenever we post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram our demand for people to Keep Christ in Christmas, we are in that moment displaying a degree of arrogance, not humility.
Instead of pointing people to the humble birth of the incarnate God, we point out how angry we are that people have forgotten the reason for the season.
Through a variety of ways and means, we sometimes use power and ridicule in our attempts to force people to recognize Jesus, rather than take up Jesus’ weapons of choice – powerlessness and respect.
Before we paste the latest poster or video on Facebook that seeks to force Christ unto our friends, let’s take a moment to stop, reflect and consider other options.
Let’s try another approach. One that invites people to reconsider the story that started it all.
Christmas is the birth story of a King whose entrance into the world was characterized by humility, weakness, love and peace, rather than power, intimidation, force and domination.
We only ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ when Jesus’ posture of humility continues to shape our life in the world.
Jesus’ birth story is a beautiful one. A humble beginning that captures our imagination and heart. Let us therefore imitate his example and demonstrate a posture of humility as we invite others to embrace the central character the story points to. The character of a loving, unassuming baby.
2 | Christmas is a significant date in the Church’s liturgical calendar, not society’s calendar
Advent and Christmas mark significant moments in the Church’s calendar. We take this time of year to stop, ponder, and anticipate the coming of Jesus, God’s Son, to earth. We mark the season by remembering God’s promise of a Messiah, the One who would inaugurate a new kingdom built on love, salvation, peace and hope.
For me, Christmas is all about Jesus’ incarnation – a powerful story of weakness and beauty. Its intrinsic humility causes me to humbly approach the story with gratitude and servitude.
However, so many Christians see this time of year as an opportunity to force the Church’s calendar into the calendar of culture.
Round peg, square hole.
Trying to force the message of Jesus’ birth into the pattern of the world is an exercise in futility. We will use enormous amounts of energy, time and resources attempting to do something that will never work.
The empire of the world may have hijacked the season with consumerism, greed and the relentless pursuit of goods, using Christmas as an opportunity to buy and sale, but trying to force culture to respect our holiday (so to speak) will yield minimal results. And, if we see any results at all, they will be based in fear, guilt and manipulation, not love, awe and peace.
Jesus didn’t enter the world through force and we should never think we can enter the world with his message through this means either.
Christmas is the Church’s time to reflect, ponder and anticipate the King’s arrival, as we wait for his return. And, we should point people to the story and invite them to experience it for themselves. However, the means we use to do so should echo the means God used – humility, invitation and embrace.
Jesus entered the world through the humility of a normal birth, in a barn, surrounded by animals. And, the Church must look for ways to imitate his posture when we enter our world with his message.
Choosing a Better Way
The phrase Keep Christ in Christmas is a good way for Jesus-followers to remember and live out the spirit of the season, but the slogan should never be used as a means to force others to do so.
There will always be a better way – a loving, humble, gracious invitation that points people to the redemptive story of Jesus. A story that entered the world through a peaceful and unassuming means.
An ordinary story that showcases an extraordinary gift.