One of our collection of as-yet unpublished Christmas resources.
This is written by NEIL ATWOOD and first used Christmas 1995
Source: Author – unpublished in Perspective
I have a proposal for Christmas.
Should rename it ChristMYTH
No you didn’t mishear and I haven’t developed a lisp (“lithp”) – rename Christmyth!
In honour of many myths that surround Christmyth.
Christmas is a time of “myths”
First Christmas-myth – That Jesus born on Dec 25th – Midwinter’s day since ancient times- popular date for pagan celebrations around the world. In ancient Rome festival of Saturnalia – that date and celebration taken over by church in 4th century to celebrate Christ birth as away combating the pagan revelry that was common.
Didn’t succeed, did it. Christmas always tended to be submerged pagan symbols and of over-the-top revelry. So much so during 1600’s Christmas banned in England. So much for the date.
Then cutesy myth that baby Jesus “no crying he makes” – We sing it in “Away in a Manger” but perhaps I shouldn’t say too much: it was written by none other than Martin Luther.
I’m sure Jesus had healthy pair of lungs… and announced his birth with a healthy bellow, and showed his needs in customary way during first year or two.
Christmyth of three Kings. – Of course not told that his visitors were Kings – Magi- or wise men – I suppose the same word from which we get magician. Not only no mention of Kings, don’t how many either – three gifts. Incidentally not a myth but a custom based in myth that of kissing someone under mistletoe.
We don’t see that much in Australia, but it is common in England.
Started with a belief that mistletoe aided fertility… So the next time you kiss someone under mistletoe – take care.
Then there is the very popular myth that Xmas time of goodwill.
That Christmyth is one big jolly time, when everything is peace & goodwill & harmony.
Certainly times when goodwill shown in remarkable ways. We have probably experienced that ourselves.
We probably know that soldiers fighting in the trenches in Europe WW1 – trenches, soccer games, exchanged gifts. But fleeting. Next day blew each other apart. Certainly most people in Australia look forward to getting together at Christmas for family celebrations. A time when differences and past disagreements forgotten, quarrels made up, the hatchet buried as it were. Good will between all.
But the reality is there are more family arguments and violence at Xmas than any other time. It the hatchet is not so much buried as reused on someone.
RNSH counselling unit always reports a dramatic increase in fights, family breakdowns and so on over Christmas. No, it’s another myth. Christmas doesn’t bring goodwill. It exposes “goodwill” as being a very thin veneer. Because not even a festival as prominent as Xmas can change the tensions, selfish hearts of people.
Then there is the whole Santa myth.
This is biggest Xmas myth of all.
That Santa – that beefy, benign benefactor showers us with gifts.
It’s a dangerous myth. That if we’re good for year before, Santa rewards us.
If not good for year – black X on chimney!
Is that so bad? Yes it is!
Firstly – it’s part of religious folklore, spiritual perversions that say if we live a good life, we will be rewarded.
It fits into that whole thing that says we can please “God” by doing what we think of as good things.
And by extension, it’s part of the way of thinking that say if you lead a good life, go to heaven.
Okay Santa is only a small part of that – but it adds to the generally held belief that we can be good enough: that we can be good enough for Santa, that we can be good enough for God, that we can be good enough for heaven.
And that way of thinking simply ignores the depth of our sinfulness. No one can be good enough for God through own efforts.
Perhaps we know people who look good enough for God.
May know some very good people. Who appear super spiritual – who seems to always do the right thing – always helping others. You may know some veritable Mother Teresa’s.
But if we think they’re perfect and good enough for God that’s because we don’t really know them.
Because everyone, everyone struggles in their hearts, in their minds, with wrong thoughts, with selfishness, perhaps with lust and so on. Never mind the things they say that are wrong.
For God doesn’t simply look on the outside – he is more concerned with the inside. Of course part of our problem is that when we judge our thoughts, our lives we can kid ourselves that we may be good enough. That’s at least part because of the standards we use. We use our standards are not God’s standards. It’s like doing a driving test and being your own examiner. Of course we’ll pass ourselves. And of course in our lives we will turn a blind eye to sinful thoughts, feelings and so. Because our standards have grown slack. We are so used to sin, we are no longer capable of judging ourselves.
But God is not slack with sin. He takes it seriously… his standard is perfection. James writes that “whoever breaks the law at point – just one sin” breaks all of it” James 2:10. If we want to be good enough for God – he demands perfection. Jesus said we should be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” No – we might be able to be good enough for Santa; good enough to earn a few goodies a Christmas; but we cannot be good enough for God.
So in a small way the Santa myth simply adds to the attitudes that fails to take sin seriously.
And it causes us to forget how far God went in dealing with sin. God hates the sin in our lives – “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil… wrong….” Habakkuk 1:13 God hates the sin in our world. But he loves us. And he intervened in our world to do something about it. That makes it sound impersonal doesn’t it. As if God did something by remote control. Sent a letter, declared a royal edict, from far off or something. But what God did was not remote and impersonal. He stepped into our world – to deal with personally with the problem of our sin. Jesus Christ – God incarnate – Lord of the universe, born as man. Came into our world to deal with your sin, my sin. This is not a Christmas-myth. This is purpose of Christmas. The real Christmas. For God’s messenger said to Joseph “…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
And how we need saving. How we need forgiving. How we need putting right with God. For we are incapable of saving ourselves.
And so we needed God… to come as man.
To be born of a woman.
To stand with sinful men.
Take place of sinful men.
To pay with price, the penalty that sinful men deserve.
Of course Jesus birth is just first step in God’s dealing with our sin. The final step when that same Jesus carried his cross to hill outside Jerusalem…and uttered those words “it is finished”, the price is paid.
Have you been taken in by Christmas myths?
Have you been taken in by that bigger and more dangerous myth that you might be good enough for God? That you can be? You cannot be.
I can only say it plainly.
And if you simply have a vague hope of being good enough for heaven you will be disappointed. None of us can be.
There is only one way to God, only one way to heaven – through Jesus.
We need to depend on him along, trust in him alone, follow him alone. Come to Jesus.