Christmas in July – I first heard of this concept while residing in Australia, many years ago. It was used in advertising a weekend getaway package to a mountain resort. It kind of made sense since Christmas is summertime in “the land down under,” where the seasons are flip-flopped from what I was accustomed to.
My experience with Christmas changed over the years. As I said, I was accustomed to cold Christmases – sometimes even with snow. But in Australia it was more like the 4th of July. We got used to it. But some things were different. For instance, instead of Christmas Eve services Christians in Austria were accustomed to Christmas morning worship. I grew to really like it.
Other, less benign differences have occurred to the concept of Christmas; it has become secularized and commercialized. In this blog, I wish to consider the secularization of Christmas. A good way to illustrate this is Christmas movies. Since my injury, I watch far more television than I ever have. I have enjoyed the Hallmark made-for-TV movies. Christmas movies begin showing at the end of October and continue through New Year’s Day.
This summer, Hallmark has treated us to “Christmas in July” over a ten-day span. All this to say that I have watched a few Christmas movies! Let me make a few generalized observations:
- These movies are family oriented and relatively free from blatant sin.
- These movies attempt to portray commonly held traditional values.
- These movies idealize Christmas as a family festivity.
- These movies promote a sense of seasonal goodwill and generosity.
- These movies have never emphasized Christian lifestyle and values, although occasionally prayer before meals or rarely a Christmas Eve service was depicted. More recently, community events such as Christmas parties and Christmas tree lightings have been featured.
- These movies have promoted the commercialized aspects of Christmas such as shopping, Santa Claus, etc.
So, Christmas and its celebration has and is changing in our culture.
Most of us have enjoyed and benefited from the observation of Christmas. We have taken the opportunity to remind ourselves and to teach our children that Christmas originated as a celebration of the birth of Christ. It marked the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide a Savior for his people. Over the ages, Christians have rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to his promises and have been encouraged in experience with God.
This is not the experience of most people. What believers in Jesus think of as basic Christian concepts are foreign to an increasing majority of people. Not only the values but also the vestiges of Christianity are being eradicated from our culture. Our “enlightened society” is rushing towards what was once called “the dark ages.”
We should not be surprised by this struggle. It has been waged since the Garden of Eden. Following the first sin, God pronounced his righteous judgment and at the same time promised to send a Savior. Throughout the ages, God has patiently worked his plan to provide this promised Savior, opposed by Satan his arch nemesis.
The Bible traces this promise from the Garden of Eden through the flood, to the Tower of Babel and then through Abram, Isaac and Jacob to Moses and the Exodus of Israel. It winds through the kingships of David and Solomon, the kings of Judah and Israel, the exile and the return to the promised land and the postexilic temple. Finally, the New Testament gospels reveal the coming of the long-awaited and promised Savior Jesus Christ.
Books of the Bible written after the time of Jesus’ ascension into heaven reflect on the life of Jesus and give explanations and applications for his people as we await his return, when he will judge “the living and the dead.”
New Testament book of Hebrews (actually, “the letter to the Hebrews”) explains the superiority of Jesus, as well as his mission.
Hebrews 2.14, 15: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Most of the theological debate of the early church had to do with the personhood of Christ. The big issue was: who is Jesus. It was a great struggle to understand and express both his deity and humanity. For about the first 500 years of church history, heresies flourished, with some emphasizing one against the other. Some denied or minimized his humanity. While others denied or minimized his deity.
Arius, an Egyptian church leader, stressed the humanity of Jesus above his deity. The Arians held that as high and glorious as Jesus was, he still was not Almighty or God. Another group was known as the Docetists, who denied the full humanity of Jesus, while stressing his deity. They held that Jesus only seemed or appeared to be a man. They derived their name from the Greek verb DOKEO which is translated as seem or appear. The Docetists insisted that although the divine Christ appeared to be human, it only seemed that way; he only gave the appearance of being human. They argued that it would be unworthy for God to take up flesh, much less experience to shame as to die on a cross.
The first great Church Council held in Nicaea in A.D. 325 dealt with these issues. Condemning the Arian heresy, Christ’s full deity and his full humanity were affirmed. The Nicene Creed describes our Lord Jesus as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father… And was made man.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks of the Son of God becoming man with these words: “Christ, the son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary and, born of her, yet without sin.” (Q/A 22)
Who Is Jesus? He is the unique God-man, who came to destroy the works of the devil and deliver those who are under his bondage. He is the one who reveals himself through the words of the Bible and who calls his people to believe in him and follow him.
Merry Christmas in July!