Monday, December 24, 2007

Being Nice at Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve. The Christmas songs have been playing in our local mall since November 18th – when Santa Claus came to town – or at least it was when they set up that throne with the oversized red and green decorations in the centre of the mall. I remember groaning when, on Monday the 19th of November, as I walked into the gym, I heard the familiar strains of Jingle Bell Rock, and It’s A Holly Jolly Christmas. Oh, no! It’s too soon!

But there were other days when I wondered if all these carols may actually be having some kind of impact. I distinctly remember stopping in my tracks, as I walked through the mall in my decidedly Jewish neighbourhood, after hearing “Born is the King of Israel.” That got me thinking. Why is it that people say Christmas is the nicest time of year? That people are kinder and more giving and drive their cars more politely during this season? Why do they say that they wish that people would act like it was Christmas the rest of the year?

Here’s my theory. I actually think that there is a spiritual shift in the atmosphere during this season because the message of Christ is preached through the all-Christmas-music stations, and non-stop in every single mall, and at least partly on almost every radio station and printed in the newspapers and sent into homes with advertising and definitely Christmas cards. Granted some of the motivation for that “preaching” is self-serving commercialized greed and some of those songs are Christmas drivel (dogs barking out Jingle Bells??). But even with wrong motivations the message is effective. Paul said it this way in Philippians 1:

15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.[c] 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

I remember hosting our first Christmas party in our Jewish neighbourhood (something that has become a yearly tradition). We thought we would sing some Christmas carols because a couple of our neighbours said they loved Christmas carols. I think they meant things like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.” But we sang stuff like “Hark the Herald Angels” and “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” Have you ever paid attention to those words when surrounded by 25 of your Jewish neighbours?

How about Hark the Herald Angels Sing? Check out these lines!

Christ, by highest heaven adored Christ, the everlasting Lord
Veiled in flesh the God-head see Hail the incarnate Deity

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace Hail the Sun of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth

Or Joy To The World?

He rules the world with truth and grace And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness And wonders of His love

Or “O Come O Come Emmanuel”
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Or even “Angels From the Realms of Glory”
Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!

There are three options when one listens to lyrics like this.
1. Fall down and worship the King of Kings acknowledging Him as Lord at His birth – or at least be touched or moved by these lyrics to take this time of the season more seriously.
2. Be offended.
3. Ignore it and be consumed by the consumerism and greed of the season.

I choose to believe that at least some of the first is happening – even while much of the world continues on blithely unaware that spiritual forces are at work making them act nicer than they normally would. Thank God for small miracles!
Merry Christmas!

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