Proper posture at Christmas

I’ve been busy lately, as probably most of you have, with preparations for Christmas – the decorating, the baking, the madness that is shopping in December. And, as happens every year, largely neglecting the weightier responsibilities of the season – meditating on and celebrating the true meaning of the holiday.

That this is a fairly universal experience is not news. But the tragedy and short-sightedness of missing the meaning of Christmas was made more apparent to me in one particular news item yesterday morning. Phil Robertson of the Duck Dynasty clan has been suspended from the A&E hit series because of comments he made in an interview with GQ, labeling homosexuality a sin. A condemning statement by GLAAD regarding Robertson’s beliefs resulted in another major consumer-driven establishment characteristically responding with PC-driven righteous indignation, and Robertson was removed from the show “indefinitely.”

What does this have to do with Christmas? Here’s part of GLAAD’s statement: “Phil E7745and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.” Now, I’m with Phil in what he goes on to say in the interview, “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists.” But it seems to me a bit audacious for GLAAD to be the judge of who qualifies as a “true Christian.” The implication is that someone who is a true follower of Christ, the Son of God, disagrees with him on the morality of homosexuality. Because in multiple passages in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, homosexuality is clearly described as immoral. Sinful. Along with a lot of other things like greed, covetousness, and idolatry.

Christmas. Yes…I’m getting to that. Claiming that homosexual behavior is normal, good, and right because you don’t believe in God or that the Bible is his word is at least a legitimate position. But claiming that a true Christian would not condemn it as sinful is frankly not. The reason this is particularly poignant at this time of year is the much overlooked, missed, misunderstood meaning of Christmas. Let’s look at a few of the greatest Christmas carols ever written, which do actually convey the true meaning. ‘Cause it ain’t about Santa and his reindeer (and you can find out how I feel about the fat guy here). Or the snow, or the bells, or ‘all I want is you.’

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

To “pine” means, “1. yearn: to long for somebody or something, especially somebody or something unattainable  2. waste away: to become weak and lose vitality as a result of grief or longing.” The world was pining “in sin and error,” yearning, longing for what? More stuff? More rights? No…for a hero…a savior. And what did we need saving from? What do we still need saving from? Our “sin and error” and the judgment we deserve because of it. That fifth line always gets me, “and the soul felt its worth.” We are worth saving.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King.”

Jesus was born, came into this world from his glory in heaven, so that we would not perish eternally because of our sins. He was born, and died, to give us new life.

What a tragedy then, when we listen to and perhaps even sing along with these familiar tunes, but instead of confessing and repenting of our sins for which Christ suffered and died, and giving thanks for his birth which is the crux of Christmas, we deny and disown them. Instead of humbly kneeling at the manger with the shepherds, we stand with Herod demanding our rights.

The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Christ, and the reason Christ was born was sin. So, instead of pridefully asserting our righteousness as we merrily go about our holiday business, why not joyfully sing with Charles Wesley,

“Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”