Each year as our community celebrates Christmas it feels as if the name of Jesus is mentioned less and less. As multicultural sensitivities increase in the name of tolerance, the diminishing significance of Christmas is noticeable. More often than not it is called Xmas, and commercialisation has taken over.
Even phrases like “Merry Christmas!” are replaced with “Happy Holidays!” or “Seasons Greetings!” It seems like it won’t be long before the true Christmas story will only be heard in Christian churches.
The trend is clearly captured in surveys by McCrindle Research which show that only 15% of Australians now take part in religious events such as attending services, carol singing, and nativity play s at Christmas. Yet, a massive 87% of those who say they are nonreligious celebrate Christmas in some way, just not with any religious or spiritual meaning. Not surprisingly, perhaps, 56% of those who belong to a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, such as Buddhists and Hindus, nevertheless still celebrate it. Australians see Christmas as being about presents, shopping and celebrations and only a third (37%), believe traditions such as exchanging gifts and a general ‘Christmas’ spirit are important.
These trends cause one to ponder on the future of Christmas. If trends continue it’s not hard to foresee that increasing numbers of people will celebrate Christmas with little or no reference to the birth of Jesus. Even so, despite the decline, Christmas Day will remain a legal holiday because our retailers and the economy could not survive without it. And no doubt Christians who observe Christmas as the celebration of Jesus’ birth will continue to be marginalised. We will need to be increasingly assertive if the wish to maintain the right to celebrate the birth of Jesus publicly.
In the light of such forces it is difficult to know what the future of Christmas holds. However, there is no need to despair or to give up hope, there is more to Christmas that that.
At the heart of the Christmas story is the miracle of God’s love and grace. Christmas is the story of baby born to be king, but rejected by the world. We should not be surprised that such rejection continues today.
“In the light of such forces it is difficult to know what the future of Christmas holds.
However, even despite betrayal, crucifixion and death, God’s plans are not thwarted. Though his faithful obedience to death, his vindication through the resurrection, and his promise to return; Jesus still embodies for us the promise of a new and better world.
The angels who heralded the birth of Christ declared the promise of peace on earth. It was the fulfilment of the visions of the Old Testament prophets that told of God’s intention to once and for all deal with evil and establish a new world order. In it the wolf and the lamb will lie down together and the earth will overflow with the knowledge of God, just like water covers the sea. The future of Christmas is assured, justice and peace will reign.
As we celebrate Christmas this year and worship Jesus our Lord may our lives, family and community be filled with hope, joy, peace and love. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Stephen L Baxter