This Christmas I want you to be prepared for someone who is “coming to town.” And, no, I do not mean Santa Claus. It seems every Christmas a few people always appear on the scene and present situations where Christians need to respond appropriately. Four people who seem to consistently show up every December are
- Resurrection Rick
- Incarnation Irene
- Christmas is Pagan Pete, and
- Worldly Wes
My goal is to help you spot these folks and know how to best love them and respond to them.
Resurrection Rick is a dear Christian man. This is your friend or acquaintance who insists on driving nearly every Christmas conversation to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Are you happy that Jesus was born of a virgin? Do you enjoy hearing Linus testify to this fact on ABC still? No sooner can you enjoy thinking of our glorious savior humbling himself to be born in the manger than Resurrection Rick shows up to remind us that “the real reason Christ came was to die on the cross.”
I love Rick. Rick is a good friend and his mind is set on Things Above Us. Rick is concerned that too many people leave Jesus in the manger, and so his intentions are good. His doctrine is good. His approach may even be gentle and loving.
But the fact is that Jesus really was born of a virgin, and the tale of his birth was important enough to document in the Bible. Separate gospels recount the savior’s humble birth and his parents’ faithfulness. His birth was important enough that a multitude of the Heavenly host appeared praising God and proclaiming His gift to man. (Luke 2:13-14)
Dear Christian, do not overlook the resurrection but feel free to also enjoy taking time to remember the birth of Jesus. Enjoy the opportunity afforded by this world which actually puts Christmas on the calendar. Never have I had more chance to witness to people who are sometimes hard to reach than during this season. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the original purpose of the holiday, and casual conversation easily tends toward, “So what are you doing for Christmas?” Enjoy Rick’s reminders. Do what you can to affirm for him that you are not “leaving Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths,” and take a page from his playbook and bring an unbelieving neighbor or coworker to the foot of the cross, leading him or her there from the manger which is on their mind.
Incarnation Irene is a sweet lady. She LOVES that Jesus walked this earth and realizes the importance of it (1 John 4:2). But there’s one problem with Irene’s way of speaking about it. Incarnation Irene neglects the truth that the incarnation actually began when Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:35) by her manner of speaking about it.
In one of the most touching displays of God’s power, we read of John the Baptist, not yet born, experiencing the joy of his savior.
Luke 1:39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
What grace! God’s goodness is incomprehensible! And what we must remember as we consider the birth of Jesus Christ is the message that is communicated when we equate that with ‘the incarnation.’ When Irene, or anyone, makes much of the incarnation at Christmas, they tacitly communicate that life begins at birth, rather than at conception. By all means, be excited about the incarnation, but help Irene and your unbelieving neighbor understand that the incarnation began months earlier, and was testified to by John and his mother, Elizabeth.
Christmas is Pagan Pete
Pete is your friend who is concerned with separation from the world and false religions. Since he doesn’t see celebrations of Christmas prescribed in the Bible, and due to the amazing popularity of Christmas with non-Christians and “bad Christian” churches, Pete sees Christmas as something we should “come out of” or separate from entirely.
Pete will have many compelling arguments and will refer to God’s command for complete destruction of pagans and their cities in the Old Testament, along with scriptures about being unequally yoked. Pete’s zeal is splendid; his desire for separation is wise; and, in most cases, his attempt to convince others just comes off as annoying. Some Petes will actually throw down a gauntlet, challenging you whether you are saved or not on how you respond to Christmas in your culture. These Petes are the worst, Patrick.
There is a lot of truth to Pete’s arguments, and Christmas can be a time when even Christians violate God’s commandments by being greedy, covetous, or so excited to give gifts they exercise poor stewardship. It’s easy to get your mind off of the reason for the season and be focused on worldly things. But the general testimony of the Church is that Christians are free to observe or not observe any day, so long as it is done through faith. Tell Pete maybe it is best if he avoids Christmas, but try to be helpful and persuade him to trust the Holy Spirit to be working in the consciences of otherwise faithful believers who simply see the “Christmas issue” differently.
A word of caution though. Some of the specific practices of Christmas are prohibited, for example, lying about Santa. Helping Pete separate things he really should call folks to repentance for and things which simply happen to be associated with Christmas is one way to disciple a dear brother in love.
And finally, a quick word about Worldly Wes. This is the guy who makes the rest of this most difficult. He’s your professing Christian friend who has no real interest in the resurrection, nor talking about the birth of Jesus. He doesn’t ever talk about the incarnation, let alone define its inception. And he provides the nonstop fuel Pete needs to be sure his admonitions are necessary to the body of Christ.
Wes is completely excited about Secret Santa gift exchanges and holiday parties — but when you recall his reticence at ever going on an evangelistic outreach, attending a prayer meeting, or financially supporting a missionary — you wonder how he all of a sudden had time and money for all the activities he’s now busy with in December.
Friends like Wes need to be reminded of the truths of Scripture and maybe even challenged. Why does he find it so easy to wish people “Merry Christmas,” (or even fight about it), but not tell people, “Jesus died for sinners?” Why is his calendar and schedule free in December but not the rest of the year? What you really want to do with a Wes is help them to see how they appear more committed to things other than Christ Jesus Himself.
I want you to enjoy yourself this Christmas. I want you to be ready for who will be there, and be loving enough to help them with their needs. Be willing to sacrifice your own liberty for others out of love if you must, and help the weak, bearing with them in love.
1 Thessalonians 5: 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.