Apologizing for Christmas

There are you in line at the mall department store. You normally do your shopping online, but during the Christmas season it’s different. You fight through the Christmas traffic and parking. You walk through the crowded stores decorated with Christmas wreaths, Christmas trees, and candy canes. Your background music is a selection of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas songs played ad nauseam. You tell yourself it is worth it because gift-giving is a part of the Christmas celebration.

As you make your purchase, the sales clerk (who has been hired for the Christmas season rush) is a bit weary. You decide to cheer her (and maybe yourself) by reminding her of the joy of the season with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” The clerk’s store-policy response is programmed: “Happy Winter Holidays to you.” Your surprise turns to dismay as you recognize all that you have been doing in the name of “Christmas” is seen by this store (and other retailers) as the “shopping season,” not the “Christmas season.” As you carry your packages to your car at the far end of the parking lot, you wonder why people can’t just say, “Merry Christmas.”

Why is it that everyone cannot or will not celebrate Christmas this year? Besides the political correctness rampant in America, is there a deeper issue with people being able to recognize Christmas? Christmas is and should be a celebration of Christ coming to earth for the salvation of humanity. The truth that the Son of God left the glories of heaven to become a human baby says at least three things about the human condition and the nature of God.

  1. Humans, by their sinful natures, are in a desperate situation and cannot save themselves through any religious system, humanitarian efforts, or societal reforms. The “extreme measure” of Christ coming to earth indicates that other pathways to human salvation do not “measure” up to God’s standards (2 Tim. 1:8-10).
  2. Humans, though rebellious sinners, are loved by God and deemed worthy of redemption. Just like the nation of Israel in Exodus 32-33, all of humanity really has only earned a disqualification as the people made by God. However, in Exodus 34 and again in the Luke 2 Christmas story, God reveals Himself as a compassionate and merciful God who is willing to forgive sins and bring peace to humans. That first Christmas is a powerful display of God’s love for humanity (see John 3:16).
  3. God will rescue (“save”) everyone who trusts in His provision of Jesus Christ. No other means will hold up to God’s standard of righteousness. The Son of God becoming human provides the perfect mediator between God and humanity. Jesus Christ, as fully human, pays the debt humans owe and, as fully God, possesses the righteousness required to be acceptable before God. Christmas celebrates the one name under heaven by which humans can be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-6 and Acts 4:12).

These Christmas truths are at the heart of the gospel and will present a crisis of faith (or unbelief) for many. So, the next time you want to share a seasonal greeting, why not bypass the normal “Merry Christmas” (and the worry whether you should apologize) and instead say, “Have a Christ-filled Christmas.”

This is an “apology” of a different sort—one where you articulate your faith that Christ is not only “the reason for the season” but also is the only hope for salvation.


Published December 18, 2017