News for the week of Friday, December 20, 2013

Opinion — Guest Columnist
Be the First One to Say ‘Merry Christmas’
By Larry Robertson
TBC president & pastor in Clarksville

Tennessee Baptists, like all Christians, have an unusual opportunity in December to share Christ and to push back spiritual darkness. Yet despite all our rhetoric, how intent are we really on sharing the Christ of Christmas with people who don’t know Him personally?

Often this time of year, we hear a lot about retail establishments instructing their employees in proper holiday greetings. You know what I’m talking about — “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And one organization even publishes a “Naughty List” that encourages believers to deny businesses our patronage based on the greetings they give us.

The Apostle Paul called upon every Christian in Philippians 1:27, “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Would that charge not include our Christmas celebrations? Might Paul say to us this month, “Celebrate Christmas ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ ”?

Christians’ celebration of the birth of Christ — contrary to critics, many from within our own ranks — is not pagan in origin. It began as evangelistic outreach! It is true that the timing of our celebration is related to pagan worship, but only because early Christians were bold and willing enough to walk into Satan’s domain of darkness with the light of the gospel. Adding to some of the confusion is the fact that Jesus was almost certainly not born in December but rather sometime in the spring. “Then why do we celebrate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25?”

Winter Solstice (the darkest day of the year) happens just a few days before Dec. 25 every year. Years ago, pagans celebrated festivals in honor of the light (as daylight began to get longer). For instance, the Romans celebrated Dies Natalis Solis Invicti which literally means “birthday of the unconquered sun.” Christians invaded pagan darkness with the light of Truth to proclaim, “You’re worshipping the wrong light!”

So with all that in mind, let me ask you: At what point did we come to expect (i.e. demand) that non-religious, profit-driven commercial enterprises evangelize the general public with the message of Christ’s birth? At what point did we lose our evangelistic zeal in celebrating the birth of Christ? At what point did we choose to forget Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)?

Have you considered that you’ll be much happier (that word “blessed” means “happy”) if you’ll focus on giving others a “Merry Christmas” greeting rather than expecting to receive one? Don’t wait on or demand a “Merry Christmas” before you give one!

Why lash out at employees who are just doing their jobs when they’ve been instructed in what to say? You might be surprised by some of the grateful smiles you get when, regardless of the greeting you receive, you say with kindness in your voice, “Merry Christmas.”

If we lose our witness in stores over holiday greetings, Wall Street’s not the one ruining the true message of Christmas … we are.

There are few opportunities through the year when people in America are more open to talking about Jesus than Christmastime. So, let’s not waste this chance to be His lights in the darkness. Let’s introduce people to the True Light of the world!

For the sake of the gospel, I wish you a Merry Christmas.


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