It has been said: "There are three stages of a man's life: Stage 1. He believes in Santa Claus; Stage 2. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus;
Stage 3. He is Santa Claus!"
As we approach Christmas it might be nice to consider our thoughts on this time of year. It is a wonderful season, but it is important that we ask ourselves what is the reason for this season in our hearts.
Hebrews 1:1–2 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.
When I grew up there was a commercial that I remember between 2 different laundry soaps. The name of one was given but the other was called Brand X. So Brand X became synonymous to me as something unknown. Later in life I started noticing that sometimes, instead of seeing the word Christmas spelled-out, I would see Xmas. I knew that the word Christmas was a combination of Latin and Greek, “mass” meaning Festival, which led me to understand that Christmas means Christ's Festival, this made sense to me, this season would be a time to celebrate Who Christ is. I did not understand at all the point of Xmas. Now, having learned Greek, I understand that the "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, when translated into English is "Christ". However, at a young age I did not understand that and so the idea of calling Christmas, Xmas, was not something I liked. Although I was not in a relationship with Jesus Christ at this time, I had a great respect for what I heard and read about the Son of God. For me, Xmas meant an unknown Festival. So I would like to challenge our thoughts as we consider what Christmas means to us.
Much of the world is missing the whole point about Christmas. So many in the world celebrate Christmas more in the sense of how I viewed “Xmas” as a young man. Instead of saying “Christ mas,” they see it as “? mas!” Having a festival for a reason unknown to them. This should be a caution to all of us. We get soooooo busy that we barely take the time to ponder why we celebrate this season.
Many years I hear this in the news: "Some businessmen are saying that this could be the greatest Christmas ever!”
Since I have come to understand Who Christmas is about and why…I think that the first Christmas was the greatest one!
This saddens my heart and as I considered it, my focus was brought to a passage that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but sheds a lot of light on the problem we have today.
Acts 17:16–23 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.” Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.) So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
V. 16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.
Athens was a great and beautiful city, with a lot of idolatry…much like the world today, including so called “Christian” nations.
V. 17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.
Paul went to where people who were willing to talk about God were. Sadly, today I see many who feel “religious” folk are a waste of time. This is NOT the mind of God…God loved “ALL”!
V. 18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”
Epicurean’s meaning is "a helper: defender" and is the name of a group that derived their name from Epicurus who lived 342-271 B.C. He was a philosopher of Attic descent, the school of Epicurus, called "The Garden," at Athens had the popularity with it’s followers as the "Porch" of Zeno and the "Academy" of Plato. The teachings of Epicurus were embraced by many in Asia Minor and Alexandria in 95-90 B.C. The desire of Epicurus was to find in philosophy a practical guide to happiness. Pleasure, not Truth was the end at which he aimed; Experience, not Reason was the test on which he relied. Due to this, his teachings degenerated into materialism. Thus, Epicurism was the popular philosophy at the beginning of the Christian era. The Epicureans believed in gods, but those gods held no interest in the earth. Their focus was to experience pleasure in it’s fullest, with no thought of the future.
The other group Paul dealt with were the Stoics, which means "of the portico"; hence the “Porch”. A brief understanding of their worldview would be Stoics believed God is everywhere, live with nature, the brotherhood of man, which included the teaching of no sin nature. This school was founded by Zeno of Citium cir. B.C. 280. Zeno’s successor was Cleanthes and he became the intellectual founder of the Stoic system. The Stoics believed god was made up of the universe and it’s power. Another name would be nature and is made up from the divine energy. They believed we should not be morally indifferent, be in harmony with nature. They sought to free from suffering through “peace of mind.” Many believe that Stoics had a close connection to the Christian morality. However, their morality was based on pride, not humility; they espoused individual independence, where Christianity teaches all to have a Total faith and dependence on another (God), they trusted in fate for the resolution of circumstances, believers trust in Providence. As with all other beliefs, the KEY difference is that for believers all of life is impacted by a personal resurrection!
These folks called Paul a Babbler. The original is σπερμολόγος spermológos; a trifler, babbler, chatterer who picks up and repeats trifling things. It is said that the Athenians applied this name to those who made their living by collecting and selling refuse they found in the market places. Therefore, they were men of no account, low and contemptible persons.
V. 22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way,
Notice Paul’s approach – looking to Bridge to these folks, not judge them!
V. 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
How many will celebrate Christmas this year, in reality will be celebrating “Xmas”; A festival for an unknown God?
The trees, lights, decorations, songs and presents are all nice things about this season. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire stirs my heart with “warm and fuzzy” feelings also, but they miss the point completely. It’s like the “cease fire” nations at war have on Christmas day. Here is that message: “We will call off the war for one day, think about love, peace and the brotherhood of man…but then I will kill you if I can of December 26th???”
Only an Unknown God can lead to that kind of answer in life!
After Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the President of the United States said this: "The planting of human feet on the moon is the greatest moment in human history!" Sometime after that Billy Graham wanted to gently set the record straight. He said: "With all due respect to the President of the United States, the greatest moment in human history was not when man set foot on the moon, but when the infinite eternal God set foot on the earth in Jesus of Nazareth!"
This is the reason for the season…it is CHRISTmas, not Xmas.
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Let us not allow the business of this time to distract us from what’s really important this Christmas!
A number of years ago a newspaper gave an account of a christening party in a wealthy Boston suburb. The parents had opened their palatial home to friends and relatives, who had come to celebrate the wonderful event. As the party was moving along and the people were having a wonderful time eating and drinking and celebrating and enjoying one another, somebody said, `By the way, where is the baby?' The heart of that mother jumped, and she instantly left the room and rushed into the master bedroom, where she had left the baby asleep in the middle of the massive bed. The baby was dead, smothered by the coats of the guests."
Let’s not allow anything to smother Jesus out of our Christmas!
Meditation: How are you approaching this season? Focused on parties, presents and social occasions? How about meditative time with your Lord and understanding what He did for you and the entire world? How are you communicating that to those around you? Sloooow down…and enjoy this season with the One that made it!