This time of year, in my travels, I see quite a few Christmas displays. There are front yard efforts ranging from the simple with a few lights to the elaborate computer-generated extravaganza. Most stores and malls will put up “Holiday” decorations to enhance their sales. TV stations have little jingles that have a way of sticking in your head: “Happy Holidays from Channel 5.” That’s the point. We are not surprised when a commercial enterprise engages in marketing.

Especially when I see private displays, however, I look to see if the owner is acknowledging in any way Christ in Christmas or if he is, in essence, drinking from a stream whose source he denies. What do I mean? Does it point to Jesus, or is it all about something we want?

Christmas is not simply a generic celebration of “joy to the world” and “peace on earth.” Nor is it a midwinter festival for families with gifts for children. To belabor what ought to be obvious, “The Nativity of Our Lord,” as we call it, is a specifically Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

This is a “great joy” which is “for all the people” (Luke 2:10-11). The eternal Word of God was made flesh for us and for the world. It’s not just for a few, but for all.

Of course, many, many customs around the world have sprung up around the celebration. Some of them are specifically Christian. Others, like St. Nicholas morphing into Santa Claus, have original roots in Christian customs, but today evidence no Christian content whatever. I thought of this the other day watching a complicated, computer-generated display of holiday lights. It was delightful, but there was nothing pointing to Jesus. Nothing at all. It appeared to me the owner was drinking from a stream whose source he denied.

How shall we respond? We are Christmas witnesses! We know the Source of the stream! Do we therefore wag our fingers and insist they “put Christ back in Christmas”? Or rather, shall we seek in the best way possible to

“give an account, to anyone who asks, the reason for the hope that is within,” doing it in “a spirit of gentleness and respect”? (1 Peter 3:15).

We are called, where we are able, to testify to what we have been given. The reason for our joy, the heart of our celebration, is that God Himself has stepped out of eternity, entered our time, shouldered our sin, suffered our pain, walked our path, taken our punishment. And it all began with a baby born for us, a baby who is also the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32). It is as the angel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God!” (Luke 1:37).

May we, with Mary, drink from the Source in the Word of God, responding with Spirit-given faith,

“I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

May we also with the shepherds of Bethlehem be ready to “make known the saying that has been told” us concerning Mary’s child, “glorifying and praising God for all that [we] have seen and heard, as it has been told [us]” (Luke 2:17, 20).

For Christ is born! For all, and for you! A blessed season of Advent preparation for one and all!

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President