Everyone is looking forward to a new year. Getting past Covid and all issues of a challenging year. Does it carry over to a humdrum Christmas too? Do you still even believe in Christmas? ◊
Yes, it’s been a challenging year. It seems as if the entire public mindset has been dialed to a numbed sense of a new reality of life. Work, home, health, family, church, sports, politics, recreation – it seems like all things have been impacted.
And apart from the Dodgers winning the World Series, it’s not all for good. It’s as if there’s been a collective deflating of our personal lives which can’t help but impact our personal perspectives on all matters of importance and even life’s purpose.
It’s just like another holiday for some. Or I heard someone say this morning that Christmas means that it’s almost New Years and a new fresh 2021. As if a new calendar year is going to change the substance of all things in life.
Christmas is different, or at least it should be. We all literally buy into it. Granted, the rat race of Christmas seems toned down this year as the annual Christmas Party (Holiday Party) at work has been cancelled, as even companies have cancelled or gone out of business. Restaurant dining is down, even neighborhood gatherings have been nixed or toned down. Traditional travel and gift spending budgets have been dialed back as well.
But it’s still Christmas time, the most beautiful time of the year.
But the question that is potentially buried in the hoopla of every Christmas season may very well be even more relevant this year in 2020: Do I even still believe in Christmas?
Do I Really Even Believe It?
What is meant by “it” is the whole basis for the Christmas celebration: the birth of Jesus, born of a virgin named Mary and her husband Joseph, the Bethlehem manger scene, 3 kings with gifts, shepherds with their flocks at night, angelic voices singing.
It’s really quite a list of things to believe or buy into.
Of course, some people buy into only some of the above. That’s curious, because it’s not really an either/or issue. It’s either all in, or all out – one believes it all or none of it. There’s really no in-between position to take.
3 Categories of Christmas Belief
I believe that people actually fall into 3 different groups when it comes to their belief or response to the “it” story of Christmas:
- The Blinders – These are ones who acknowledge and celebrate the birth of Jesus like they’d celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birth, only with an extended amount of attention and decorations. And even a day or two off work. The rest of it they leave out, don’t care about or ignore. They just don’t put a lot of thought into it. They’re not evil or the Grinch, they just have blinders on.
- The Deniers – These are people who consciously deny any or all aspects of the “it” story. If not outright atheists, these are ones who have bought into the notion that “you can’t really be sure.” Yes, they may go along and celebrate the Christmas season with the best of them, but in their heart of hearts they think it’s all just a nice story not rooted in fact or reality. But they’ll “Happy Holidays” you quite nicely.
- The Believers – These are the Christians who do accept and acknowledge the whole package of God’s gift to humanity in the coming of Christ and the redemptive sacrifice on the cross. They may lose sight sometimes of the greater picture of the season, but when they do slow it down, they do believe and celebrate the Truth of what transpired at that first Christmas.
Introspection is healthy. Acknowledging one’s personal response to Christmas is critical to an understanding of one’s worldview and where that worldview actually originates or gets feeding.
Christmas Elements for All to Consider
The Bible presents Jesus as a figure who was born in the region of Judea outside Jerusalem in a town of Bethlehem. He lived for more than 3 decades and was crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem. Here are some key topics around the Christmas story:
- Birth in Bethlehem – This town 6 miles outside of Jerusalem is significant in the tie-in with Old Testament predictions of the birthplace of the Messiah in the homeland of David (see John 7:42 and Micah 5:2). This is documented over centuries of history.
- Born of a Virgin – This one is difficult for many, but if God is the author of creation, then the birth of God in the form of man is a unique occurrence, particularly when presented in the Scriptures (see Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:21-23, John 1:14, Luke 1:34, John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19). Indeed, the need for God’s injection into human history due to Adam’s original sin and separation dictates the need for the sacrificial “lamb” to be pure and unblemished. He had to be born of a virgin.
- Star of Bethlehem – Another extraordinary event, a supernatural celestial sighting that led the Magi (the “wise men”) to Jesus. Key is to focus on what Scripture says: this star “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). We picture a star in the sky, with common explanations including a supernova, a comet, an alignment of planets. While interesting speculation, this doesn’t fully jive with “went before them” or how it “stood over where the young child was.” It appears from the text that the star led them originally from the east, then reappears to them when they reach Jerusalem. This star may have very well been a supernatural manifestation from God visible only to the magi. Nothing precludes God from doing something like the phenomenon of the burning bush with Moses (Exodus 3:1).
- Magi Visitors – It’s commonly depicted that the magi (the Bible never says there were three) arrived at the manger on the night of Christ’s birth. Actually, they found him with his parents in a house. This could very well have been up to two years after Christ’s birth (see King Herod’s reaction in Matthew 2:16). Nevertheless, they came. History documents that the magi were a priestly caste in ancient Persia. Jews who stayed in Babylon beyond their captivity throughout most of the 5th century BC would have exposed the magi to Jewish astrological beliefs – “A star will rise from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17).
God, and Christmas, are Supernatural
The Bible, like God’s creation and manifestation, are full of supernatural phenomena and historic realities. One’s responsibility is to confront it and study it, not retreat or resist it with blinders or as a denier. From creation and events surrounding Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the nation of Israel, and birth of the promised “blessing to all the nations” (Genesis 12:3), intersected with known and documented human history even an atheist cannot deny, the Christmas story can also be factually assessed and faithfully believed, even intellectually reconciled.
With implications for all of us in 2020, as God still lives, and God still loves. And with that belief and understanding comes hope, purpose, peace and joy for a coming year and beyond.
Do you have restored belief in Christmas 2020?
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. – Luke 2:40