Several years ago, a USAToday headline read “Many Skip Christmas’ Religious Aspect” and was then followed with this opening line, “Christmas is a whole lotta jingle and not so much Jesus.” The article revealed the results of a recent survey in which the following activities were planned:
89% of those surveyed said they are giving gifts;
86% dine with family or friends;
80% put up a Christmas tree;
79% play holiday music;
58% say they "encourage belief in Jesus Christ as Savior";
47% attend church Christmas Eve or Christmas Day;
34% watch "biblical Christmas movies";
- 28% read or tell the Christmas story from the Bible.
Cultural commentator and Christian researcher, Ed Stetzer, remarked, “It's alarming to me that while nine in 10 celebrate Christmas, only six in 10 encourage any belief in the source of Christmas and only three in 10 actually read the story of Christmas.”
Often with such research we can interpret the numbers in a negative light, yet, I suspect, other religious or national holidays are marked with similar results. How many people read the Declaration of Independ- ence on July 4th or revisit American history on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day? How many folks will partic- ipate in an explicitly Christian expression of Easter? Often these high days of the calendar are marked by family visits, gifts and special meals, yet the number of folks who take to heart the real meaning of these days is far less.
As a pastor and as a church, we could be cynical or critical of such information during the Christmas season, yet the results can also strengthen our resolve to be more committed to sharing the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we think ahead of what our Christmas gatherings will be this year, let us commit to remembering the real purpose of our Christmas celebration. In doing so, let us commit to participate in authentic worship of God, and let us commit to be more active in compassion- ate ministry to the world around us. The survey reminds us that there are people who continue to partici- pate in various expressions of Christmas celebration, yet they do not know the true meaning of Christmas nor do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The newspaper’s headline reminds the church that our witness is essential to demonstrating to others the true joy, peace, hope, and love of Christmas. The world needs to know again, Christ has come, and he will come again soon!
Joy for the Journey, Jay