In 1965, the world was treated to a short TV movie that has now become a classic. It’s still beloved by young and old. Lines from the movies are quoted as people get ready for Christmas. It is an amazing story dealing with the intersection of faith and society during the Christmas season. The defining moment of the story happens after Lucy sends Charlie Brown out to buy a Christmas tree for the pageant they’re preparing. He comes back with a sorry little sprig of a tree and Lucy lets him have it. Charlie Brown cries out “What is Christmas all about, anyway?” whereupon Linus tells the Christmas story from Luke 2. That changes the mindsets of the kids and they end up making Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree look good. In true American spirit though, we’ve found a way to commercialize that angst and now there are people who sell “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees” according to my friends.
It’s axiomatic for Christians to want to remind us that we need to put Christ back into Christmas, as Linus did in the movie. And so, I shock people when I tell them that we need to take Christ out of Christmas. When they ask if I have any last words before they set fire to the wood around the stake, I let them know that it’s easy and comfortable to remember Jesus as a baby in the manger, but if we forget why He came, we miss the meaning of Christmas. Paul understood this truth. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)
Paul reminds us that Jesus came as a servant and was obedient to God – even to the point of enduring death on cross: a most painful death. He told us this to remind us to be humble and serving in our relationships with others. Jesus, though He was God, didn’t cling to His equality with God. When the time came for Him to come to earth, He didn’t back out saying that serving and caring for people was beneath Him, although it was; He came willingly as a man. He came in human form and was harder to recognize for the public than an Undercover Boss. He came in humility for one purpose: that death on the cross that would be followed up by His resurrection, defeating death. The point Paul is making is that if Jesus could show that kind of humility because of His love for us and His obedience to the Father, then certainly we can do the same…all year round.
OK, Paul didn’t mention the all year-round part, but I think that fits in with his overall message. Christmas is a time of joy and love. It’s a time when followers of Christ really shine – well, unless we start demanding that others celebrate it exactly like we do. The joy and love we show at Christmas should be an attitude we have all year. Thus, we need to take Christ out of Christmas. We need to show that joy and love to others no matter what the season may be, and no matter how grouchy they may be, or we may feel. That charity you’re showing now, show it in June as well. That goodwill towards all men, it works in April also. While we may be saved to reign in heaven, we’re living on this earth right now and if Jesus humbled Himself and came as a man to serve mankind, we need to take His example and serve others. Celebrate the Christ Child in the manger. Sing those Christmas Carols joyfully. Always remember the sacrifice He made for us by coming to Earth, and by going obediently to the cross.
O Lord, as I celebrate the birthday of Jesus and recall the baby in a manger, remind me to be humble, to be willing to serve You, and others, and to be obedient to Your call, even to the point of death.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.