Another Christmas has just passed, and as me and my Mrs were packing away the Christmas tree and decorations, sorting them and putting them into boxes where they belong, I asked myself the question, ‘I hope I am not putting Christ in the box with them?’
How can Christians put Christ in the box? When we get so passionate about Christmas and sharing the good news of Jesus, yet that passion does not carry on in everyday life and details, then we put Him in the box only to be revealed next Christmas. This is what I mean by ‘Santa Christians’. The commercial image of St Nicholas (AD 270-343) (known to us as ‘Santa Claus’) only comes once a year around December (although some shops stretch this to early autumn in the attempt to sell more merchandise!). Those in that industry or business, including myself for Church purposes, know that Santa only gives a short visit once a year at Christmas; it would be strange for us to see children going to see Santa in say March or April.
But are Christians called to be good, just and generous, and share the good news for just one season? Scripture admonishes us, “I give you this charge: preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV). Paul here encourages Timothy to discharge the full duties of his calling as an Evangelist always. As Christians we must ensure that we do not just care for the poor and the marginalised at Christmas, or confine our evangelism and social action projects to that period of the year. Our passion for social justice and concern must be for all seasons, and so must our character reflect that of Christ all year round. It is easy for many of us to say “hello” to our neighbours at Christmas, but when January comes we go back to being cold and distant once again, a typical example of the individualism that so pervades our beloved city, and which we are also guilty of. It is convenient to give financially to the poor and needy in some troubled spots of the world during Christmas, therefore appeasing our guilt of consumerism, but that generous giving too often ceases when it is January.
This kind of attitude betrays the lack of discipleship that has crept into our Churches and lives. Christianity is a daily affair and as well as Christmas Jesus is interested in what we do every other day of the year. The call to deny ourselves and follow Jesus is an everyday commitment. So the challenge is this: don’t pack away Jesus and your Christianity with your decorations this year.