Plain Truth Online

November-December 1998


Hank Hanegraaff

Hankronyms

Christmas
Come, Celebrate Christ

by Hank Hanegraaff

Each year as the Christmas season approaches, people from all over North America call the Bible Answer Man broadcast asking the same question: Should Christians participate in celebrating Christmas?

Many fear that because Christmas is celebrated on December 25 they might inadvertently be commemorating the birthday of a pagan Roman god.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While we do not know the exact date that Christ was born, we do know why the early Christian church chose to celebrate Christmas on December 25. The church was not Christianizing a pagan festival, but was establishing the celebration of the birth of Christ as a rival celebration.

Today the world has all but forgotten about the pagan gods of Rome. But at least a billion people today consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ and celebrate that reality every Christmas. Tragically, in a post-Christian America, multitudes are once again using Christmas to worship a pagan god-a god called commercialism. To focus our attention on the real reason for the season I've developed the acronym

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S.

C stands for the person who alone gives Christmas eternal significance -- Christ our Lord. The name Christ means "Anointed" and the title Christ points to his role as Lord, and Son of God. If Jesus is not the Christ of your life, celebrating the birth of an obscure Jewish carpenter's son is ultimately meaningless.

 

H stands for history. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not myths or fantasies -- they are historical realities. That God cloaked himself in human flesh is a verifiable historical fact. While many still debate the meaning of Christ's life, few question its historicity. As the apostle Peter put it, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).

 

R stands for rejoice. Christmas songs demonstrate that rejoicing has always been the focal point of Christmas. We rejoice not for earthly vanities, but for eternal verities. A gift of gold may last until we die. The gift of God will last for all eternity. Jesus said, "rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Likewise, the psalmist David says, "rejoice in your salvation" (Psalm 9:14).

 

I stands for incarnation, a word which describes that glorious event in which God became man. In the incarnation Christ cloaked himself in human flesh. Although he took on the limitations of humanity, Christ did not divest himself of a single attribute of deity. As man, he was our representative -- the second Adam. As God, his death was sufficient to provide redemption for all humanity. Paul writes, "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).

 

S stands for Saint Nicholas, the fourth-century Bishop of Myra whose life exemplifies faithfulness and charity. Santa Claus is an anglicized form of the Dutch Sinter Klaas, which in turn means "Saint Nicholas." Saint Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea and supported the doctrine of the Trinity. He was kind toward children and often gave them gifts. While Santa Claus in its present form is a fairy tale, Christians can look to the real Saint Nicholas as a genuine hero of the Christian faith.

 

T stands for tradition. Many Christmas traditions developed as reminders of Christ. The Christmas tree, for example, symbolizes that Christ brings us eternal life (evergreen) and is the light of the world (lights). This tradition originated in Germany from a Paradise tree symbolizing the tree of life and a pyramid holding Christmas figurines. In the 16th century, these traditions were combined into the Christmas tree.

Some claim the Christmas tree is a pagan tradition forbidden in Jeremiah 10:2-4. At first blush this may sound plausible. However, a careful reading demonstrates that God is condemning idols that are carved from wood and used for worship. Rather than referring to Christmas trees he is ridiculing idols that can neither walk nor talk.

 

M stands for the magi who serve as an enduring reminder that no one is too wealthy, wise or worldly to leave all to follow Christ. As they worshiped him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh, we, too, are called to worship him by offering ourselves as living sacrifices. Some disparage the giving of gifts by claiming that the wise men gave gifts to Christ -- not to one another. That, however, misses the point. Christ himself tells us that when we give to others we are giving to him (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

A stands for advent, a word referring to Christ's coming (from the Latin adventus, "coming"). Christmas is a celebration of Christ's coming in the town of Bethlehem.

The advent season begins four weeks before Christmas and is designed to turn our hearts from the commercialism of the culture to a celebration of Christ's coming.

This time of joyful anticipation not only serves as a celebration of the Christmas season but serves as a celebration of Jesus Christ's second coming. While once Christ came as a babe in Bethlehem, he will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

 

S stands for salvation. The gospel story is simple yet profound. It is not found in religion but in a relationship with God. Christ became flesh to restore the relationship broken by sin.

Sin separates us from God and separates us from others. Scripture says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

God is the perfect Father who loves us with an everlasting love, but he is also the perfect Judge whose very nature is too pure to tolerate sin. His love and justice are reconciled through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to be our Savior and lives to be our Lord.

As our Savior, he lived the perfect life that we could never live and offers his perfection as an absolutely free gift -- we cannot earn or deserve it, we can only live a life of gratitude for the gift he so freely offers us. As Lord, Christ gives our lives meaning, purpose and direction.

This is particularly exciting when you stop to realize that the one who desires to be the Lord of your life is the very one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence.

The Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

To make Jesus Christ the Savior and Lord of your life this Christmas season, you need to take two steps. The one is repent, the other is receive.

Repentance means a U-turn on the road of life -- a change of heart and a change of mind. Jesus says, "The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15).

To demonstrate true belief means a willingness to receive. To truly receive means to trust in Jesus Christ alone to be the Lord of our lives here and now and our Savior for all eternity.

As the angel announced to the shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-12). 

 

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