Monday, December 20, 2010

DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS

In the early 1940s Bing Crosby began singing ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.’ As a sleigh needs reindeer so Christmas needs snow! White Christmases were guaranteed when I lived in Canada, then Scotland, and then Canada again. But now that I live in Queensland, Australia, like Bing Crosby, I can only dream of Christmas snow!

I remember as a youngster being warmed inside and out on a cold night after visiting the local bakery heated by its own ovens. Their hot bread rolls were the best in the world! Shepherds left their flocks in the field and went to Bethlehem, the ‘House of Bread,’ to see the ‘Bread from Heaven.’

When was that very first Christmas? For, around Christmastime it’s common to hear that Christ Jesus was not born on December 25. However, the person stating this usually admits to not knowing when Jesus was born. But, if we don’t know when Jesus was born, then what makes some people so sure it wasn’t on December 25?

Who would disagree that the event of the incarnation and subsequent birth of Christ is not cause for celebration? ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John 1:14. His incarnation and birth were spoken of some seven hundred years before the actual event, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel’ Isaiah 7:14. And what about the verse of Isaiah that speaks as if the event had already happened? ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ Isaiah 9:6.

Of the great event the Commentator Norval Geldenhuys says, ‘Whether 25th December is really the birth-date of Jesus, as some people still maintain, or not makes no essential difference to the significance of the day to all believers throughout the length and breadth of the world. It is the great event itself that is commemorated and not the day as such.’

However, the Commentator William Hendriksen says, ‘It is true that during the reign of Constantine special enquiry was made with respect to the date of Christ’s birth, and that Dec. 25 received official sanction. However, much earlier than this the attention of students was focused on this very date; for example, by Hippolytus. He was a disciple of Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. That Jesus was born December 25 can neither be proved or disproved. I fully agree, however, with Lenski’s statement, “While December 25 is only traditional, it is a least traditional.”’

Hendriksen has built a fairly strong case that the traditional date might very well be correct! But regardless of the date, the birth of the Saviour of the world is worth celebrating!

Shepherds were tending their flocks near Bethlehem on that great day. ‘And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”’ Luke 2:9-14.

I confess that as a youngster I was more into celebrating the idea of presents at Christmas than the birth of Christ. Any notion of connecting Christmas with Christ regularly got trampled beneath Santa’s boots. Mind you, singing ‘Away in a Manger’ would sometimes outshine the Christmas tree lights by sweeping Christ’s spotlight across my heart. Every Christmas, with the rest of the kids at school, I was trotted off to church where we’d inevitably sing ‘Away in a Manger’ from the Church of Scotland Hymnary. As much as any youngster could I really meant the words we sang: ‘I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky / and stay by my side until morning is nigh / Be near me Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay / Close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.’ (Hymn 657). As an adult I mean these words even more!

The wise men worshipped the Child Jesus (Matt. 2:11). As a child so did I in a childlike way! But I wandered far from Jesus as a young adult, but even so, I was still dreaming of a time of childhood innocence, those white Christmases. Then as an adult I gave the Jesus of the Bible my full study. Now I crave that childlike faith! For Jesus says, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea’ Matthew 18:3-6.

If ‘Christmas is for the kids!’ then why are some adults so afraid to mention the word ‘Christmas’ at Christmas? The once innocent terms ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Seasons Greetings’ now serve to signify a thinly veiled rejection of Christ. And why do some push for the removal of the ‘Nativity Scene’ from public places? If we are to reject Christmas then it must be done on a Biblical basis and not at the whim of ‘Bible Bashers’ (i.e., those who reject the Bible as God’s Word). Yes, it is good to test our Western traditions against Scripture, but I fear that it is not Christmas that is being rejected by some, but Christ!

Could the West really be losing sight of Christ in the current snowstorm of political correctness? Perhaps. But I think that those who disown Christ have simply been running a somewhat successful PC campaign. However, it’s really just a ‘snow job’ by the Christmas ‘grinches.’ It’s people with millstones around their necks that place stumbling blocks in the children’s path!

Ever gentle as falling snow, Christians are way too gracious in their tolerance of the present anti-Christian spirit. Christians should grab their snow blowers and begin clearing the way that leads to life.

Keep on dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones we used to know.

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