I know. It’s not even Halloween yet. But this is the time when people are still thinking about planning for it – and aren’t all caught up in the rush and crush of it just yet. So it’s a good time to bring this up.
To begin, and in the spirit of full transparency, I’m one of those people who now lean towards the idea that Jesus was born on the Feast of Trumpets in the Fall – September 11, 3 B.C. to be exact. New information helps us understand why this makes more sense than the December or January dates traditionally celebrated. In fact, it changes a lot of things. I love the movement of thinking Christianity that seems to be changing the conversation about faith, truth, and Biblical accuracy. I thank (blame?) my friend Tim Keyes of God Save the King for that.
But that’s not the point here.
The point here is that Christmas is still the most charitable holiday of the year. Its roots are based on the Nativity Story and celebrated with pageants and parades and midnight sermons. Surprisingly, it’s only the 4th most dangerous holiday given all the liquor, parties and driving.
But Christmas it still the most globally shared holiday focused on giving. So what shall we give?
We’re Christians, right? So let’s give the things that root us in faith and relationship. Gifts that give hope, encouragement, edification and character building. I know. That sounds boring. Or pedantic, if you want a 10-cent word. But again – we’re Christians. Somewhere in the midst of celebrating the birth of Jesus and the blessing of those around us, we need to stay focused on Why He Came In The First Place.
Yes, I’m going there. Hear me out, please.
He came to die. To save us from our sins. To usher in a new era of spiritual freedom where we could be restored to the Father in a real relationship. But also, he came to give us life in this world and the next.
And the next. How often do we really think about that? When we die we don’t just go to heaven, get a big house and relax forever. We go to heaven to be reunited with the Father in a powerful way. To prepare for a wedding feast where Jesus gets his bride (that’s us), and then to prepare for his invasion of the world where he will conquer it, judge it and renew it. You see, the point of Jesus coming was to ultimately restore us to the Garden of Eden. Work wasn’t always a 4-letter word. It was the purpose mankind was created for.
So what’s that got to do with Christmas?
If we are coming back, then now’s the time to leave our mark because it’s all going to affect what we come back to. Does that make sense? Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of N.T. Wright lately? We leave our mark by using holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays and Easter as an opportunity to influence those around us towards wisdom, character, beauty and self-discipline. So the art, books, wall décor, mugs, cards, and t-shirts we give count as more than gifts for right now. Any item that has semi-permanence in someone’s life is an opportunity to share quotes of wisdom and verses from the Bible that give people pause and help them to re-examine their lives and their choices.
Reading the Bible changes lives. Surely you’ve heard stories of people who learned a new language by reading the Bible, overcame suicidal tendencies or anger issues. It may seem like a blatant commercial plug here, but the entire reason I created a line of $5 posters was to make it cheap and easy to bring art, beauty, wisdom and the Bible into people’s lives.
Western Christianity has a middle-class mindset to it, but most people aren’t middle-class. And no one is exempt from life’s pains. Lower class people have scarcity issues and upper class people are being invaded by a silent heroin epidemic. People with money are bored and people without money are bored. People with too many choices are bored. And that’s when people make dumb choices that get them into trouble. The flood of media content pushes boundaries until most of it is dark and voyeuristic and we have so few models for what is good, perfect and excellent.
So yes, a $5 poster eliminates the excuses to not bring art and scripture back into people’s lives. Or into their homes, Sunday Schools, dorm rooms, hospital rooms, prayer rooms, nurseries, offices… you get the idea. If scripture is controversial, pick a good quote from a Christian thought leader. We need to put respectable Christians and respectable Christianity back into our environments in order to bring it back into our conversations.
Most of us are not evangelical. It scares the daylights out of us to think of leading someone in the sinner’s prayer. But my favorite teaching on the subject, by a pastor named Dishan Wickramaratne of the People’s Church Assemblies of God in Sri Lanka is this: Look at the example of Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew didn’t preach about Jesus. Every time he’s mentioned, he’s the one introducing people TO Jesus. “Hi. This is Jesus. You two talk.” Then he disappears from the narrative.
That gave me so much peace when I heard it! What a lovely way to show each of us that we can simply introduce Jesus and let Him pick up the conversation.
So this Christmas, regardless of when you think Jesus was born, I’d like to invite you to make an eternal impact on the people you will give to by giving those small, thoughtful gifts that introduce them to the Jesus we celebrate. Something semi-permanent, that they can touch and hang on to. Something that will encourage them to take another look.
If Jesus really wanted us to celebrate His birthday, he’d have given us the date and told us how to do it a long time ago. So if we’re going to celebrate, let’s give Him the only gift He really wants – introductions to new friends. He can do the rest.
May God bless you and keep you,