Musing 1.1.21


“Keep Christ in Christmas” We see the signs every year. I did again this year. I also received a text to buy a coffee mug that expressed the desire to “Make Christmas Great Again.” I am not fully sure what the intention of the latter was, but the former is a plea that Christmas be less commercial. It is the hope that we remember the reason for the season.

I don’t have any argument with wanting to keep Christ in Christmas. I do, however, propose that we also Don’t Keep Christ in Christmas. What I mean is that we do not keep Christ only in Christmas. We should not treat Christmas as Christ’s prison in which he is confined. We need to let him out of Christmas.

If we keep him in Christmas, he is trapped as a baby in a manger thousands of years ago in a foreign land. What good is that? He needs to grow up, teach parables, preach sermons, heal, comfort, challenge, and call disciples. He needs to live and die and be resurrected. He needs to become alive in the world to save and transform lives.

It is a religious temptation to keep God in a box so that we can control God. We try to restrict God’s freedom and activity by restricting God to only certain times and places. That keeps God from interfering in our lives. It is a way to avoid God. For example, we may keep God in the church building and not let God out of it. Then God is easy to manage and ignore. If God stays only in the church, we are free to live as we desire outside the church. There are all kinds of boxes in which God is kept. God can be confined to the past, to the future, in Galilee, in a manger, in a season, to a cross, in a tomb. A box is convenient in that we can keep God in it until God is needed. Then we can let God out to meet our needs. Keeping God in a box is a form of idolatry. God becomes our servant who caters to our agenda.

To keep Christ in Christmas is to miss the point of Christmas which is that God is free to show up in the least expected places and times. Christmas is over, but that does not mean God is done showing up in our lives and in the world. Christ can show up in a hospital in January, in a homeless camp, in February, in a neighborhood zoom call in March, in a family argument in April, in a courtroom in May. Christ can show up in devotions, in the woods, at the beach, in the nursing home, in a board meeting, on the street. Christ is neither static nor predictable. He keeps popping up. He keeps interjecting himself. That is our hope. Just as he cannot be kept in a manger, so he cannot be kept in a tomb. That is the Good News. Christ is going to be Christ.

We are still in the Christmas season; it is twelve days. Let’s not leave Christ behind us when it ends. Let’s look forward to meeting him throughout 2021 where and when we least expect him. Let’s not keep Christ in Christmas.

Be safe and healthy.

Happy New Year.