Christians have their opportunities to advance the Kingdom prerogative all through the year, yet some of us have the awkward and disengaging temerity to insist that the nonbeliever observe ‘the reason for the season’ at Christmas time. In doing so, and in many other ways, we betray the love purposed for us to display at Christmas time, just like every other time of the year.
There are all sorts of observations of Christ’s birthday; many very pagan traditions exist, through to many devout ones. But what is a celebration of Christ’s birth pointing us to in our engagement at Christmas time? What is God’s desire regarding our interaction with family?
This quote has eternal relevance, and, particularly at Christmas time, it’s got great relevance within the family context:
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”
— Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790).
Developing a Christ-Changing Approach
In a very crude way, we can distil all Jesus’ teaching to love for God and love for our neighbour. Our most important neighbour is the one living under our roof. Next most important is the one living under some geographically remote roof, but, all the same, kinfolk. Of course, even the stranger is a neighbour and is to be loved.
But we often don’t treat our families this way, i.e., lavishly with care, love and respect, do we?
Too many times families are split asunder at Christmas time. The pressures of finance, of coordinating events, of splitting up tasks, of inter-family personality clashes... all these and more bear harmful effects on those with inextricable blood ties. It’s not as if we can very successfully run away from family (though many try).
Christmas time brings out our best and our worst. We can be reached by God, but we can be at our most vulnerable, also.
Developing a Christ-changing approach is about executing an illogical-to-the-world faith, for the benefit of others. Where we issue grace—that sense of undeserved favour—to others, it’s more likely to be returned our way; but we should never expect it. Part of this approach that works is about anticipating the many tests that will crop up within family interactions.
It’s possible that many potential disasters can be averted by the pure exercise of love.
Some will see this as ‘doormat’ treatment, but so long as we don’t take those offences to heart—knowing most offences are based in their fear; yes, even selfishness—we rise above the temptation for instinctive, and later regrettable, reaction.
Peace is possible at Christmas time when we put Christ first. This is most poignant at family Christmases. When we go in with our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open, prepared to issue grace and goodwill, our families are fortified by our presence.
Christian Presence at Christmas is the best of all presents.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.