The grand old lady of Christmas has had a good run. Ever since she made her grand entrance on December 25th in the year 336, she’s played to rapturous audiences worldwide. And people haven’t stopped raving over her for nearly 1700 years, an amazing record. And she didn’t change the show much along the way either.
But after all this time, is she beginning to show signs of her age? And are some of her outfits looking a bit dated, like the good old crowd favourites she hauls out every year to get people in the festive spirit again? Is she ageing in a changing world, where cherished traditions nowadays are being viewed as leftovers from a dark and repugnant past?
Even that lovely name of hers, “Christmas,” is losing its shine. It’s now more politically correct to have a “holiday tree.” And nativity scenes, the very heart and soul of Christmas, are being banned from city property. And the health conscious are having conniptions over Christmas decorations containing harmful substances. It’s a different world.
So how does Christmas survive in such a world? Does it need a makeover, like dated kitchen cupboards? Or does it need a total rethink, this time based purely on Scripture? In Scripture, for instance, the date of Jesus’ birth, and setting aside a day to celebrate his birth, are not mentioned or recommended. But what Scripture does tell us is what Jesus received as gifts, and very specifically too, no guesswork involved. So, what if we focused on the gifts instead?
He received gold, frankincense and myrrh, an amazingly astute collection of gifts from Persian wise men, because each gift pictured a key role Jesus would play. Myrrh was used for embalming, picturing Jesus’ death to save us; frankincense was used in the temple by the priests, picturing Jesus’ priesthood to nurture us; and gold was the gift for kings, picturing Jesus’ triumphant power over evil for us.
And that last bit is very much the focus of his birth, as John brings out in 1 John 5:18, that “the one born of God” – Jesus – “keeps us safe, and the evil one does not touch us.”
That’s not just a “touch up” on Christmas to give it a makeover; it’s getting right at the reality of the world we live in, where evil is real, and if it wasn’t for Jesus being born as our Saviour, High Priest and King, we would have no defence against it.