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A Blessed Christ-Centered Christmas
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Friday, December 08, 2017
Alf Cengia

I can't recall having written a column about Christmas before. So I'm feeling somewhat jittery. During this time, people tend to get into heated arguments and debates about Christmas. Regardless of anything I say there will be someone somewhere who disagrees. 

Be kind. It's Advent.

This is the season for those obligatory Jesus-myth news articles. These are often resurrected in slightly different format prior to Easter. 'Tis the season for diligence. The Social Conscience Activists will be out there ensuing non-believers aren't violated by offensive public Nativity Scenes; or an unduly hearty "Merry Christmas!"

Then there are skeptics who deny any conspiracy to silence Christmas. One article even blamed Donald Trump for the "fake war on Christmas." In fact there was a war on Christmas long before Trump.

Some Progressive Christians are Twitter-targeting Trump for his claim to have bought Christmas back (among other grievances). I do see his point. Mark Tooley's observations in a 2011 article - "Christmas as the Religious Left's new target" - are instructive.

It isn't only Leftists and Humanists who fight against celebrating Christmas. There are those who believe it to be a modified pagan festival, which should be assiduously avoided. I really don't want to get drawn into an unwinnable debate.

However...there's always a "however."

I was thumbing though Sinclair Ferguson's book "In Christ Alone" and happened to open it at the chapter called "Santa Christ?" It should be noted here that Ferguson is a Reformed Theologian in the Scottish Puritan tradition. He is deeply Christological.

He recollects an incident when his son pointed to a cardboard Santa Claus asking: "Daddy, who is that funny-looking man?" Those who overheard it were shocked that a minister's son didn't recognize Santa. In response Ferguson observes:

Such experiences make us bewail how the Western world gives itself over annually to its Claus-mass or commerce-mass. We celebrate a reworked pagan Saturnalia of epic proportions, one in which the only connection with the incarnation is semantic. Santa is worshiped, not the Savior; pilgrims go to the stores with credit cards, not to the manger with gifts. It is the feast of indulgence, not of the incarnation.

Observations such as this are a kick in my pants - something I need from time to time. There are a number of people I appreciate and read who expose my short comings. Ferguson is one of them. He's not referring to imported pagan traditions and saying we shouldn't celebrate Christmas. The problem is focus.

What do we love about Christmas? Is it Christ or a combination "Santa Christ" along with the trappings? Ferguson warns against a "Santa Christ" who asks if we've been "good enough." His point is that we can never be good enough. Someone else has to be good in our place. That's what the First Advent was about. It was the beginning of the process of our eternal redemption and glorification.

I've got a soft spot for C. S. Lewis' Father Christmas in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." He tells the children that the White Witch had kept him away all those years - but now Aslan was on the move. Upon hearing this, Lucy felt a "deep shiver of gladness" running through her, though she hadn't met Aslan yet.

This Father Christmas is subservient to the Christ-figure Aslan. On his departure he cries out: "Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!" Amen to that!

We also often hear the expression "baby Jesus." But there's immeasurably more to "the baby" (even though that's important). George Swinnock wrote something I like to ponder often:

God is an infinite being. He is without bounds or limits, measures or degrees. God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere…The “heaven of heavens” cannot contain the God of heaven. No place can define Him. He is not shut in or shut out of any place. He is without place, yet in all places.

This is the same God who condescended to come down to us for our benefit. Think about how vast the universe is. Then think of that little baby and the enormity of the First Advent. Words fail me. My mind cannot conceive it. Compare John 1:1-5, 14 and Phil 2:5-11.

Who was this baby?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Col 1:15-17

Because of pagan connotations, conscience doesn't permit some Christians to observe Christmas. That's fine. We have the liberty to celebrate Christmas, or not. But we, who do, also have an obligation to the One True King.

Sinclair Ferguson tells of the Christians who celebrated Christmas during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. They were often murdered because they worshiped Jesus Christ on that day. They didn't worship Diocletian or anyone else. They were - as we are - citizens of another Kingdom.

It is Christ who is hated by the secular who oppose Christmas today. The only difference (at least in the West) is that we're not murdered for openly worshiping Jesus.

With all this in mind, let's have a Blessed Christ-Centered Christmas!

And may the True King return quickly!

About Alf Cengia

Last week: The Lost Honor of John Nelson Darby

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