We’re used to seeing it every December as a bumper sticker, a refrigerator magnet, or even a billboard:
Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas!
The sentiment behind the slogan is a good one. Let’s not forget in the midst of all of the cute preschool programs about snowmen and penguins, mall visits to Santa, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and seeing that joyful look when that special someone opens that special gift, that the “reason for the season” is that Christ is born. For many, Christmas isn’t Christmas until they sing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve. I know that’s one of the most important parts for me.
I recently came across a meme on Facebook that challenged me on this way of “doing Christmas.” The picture is an Orthodox Christian icon of the events from the Gospel of St. Luke from the beginning of Jesus’ life: The Annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), The Nativity of Christ (Luke 2:1-7) and The Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). The text on the meme reads:
“Jesus is not part of the story of Christmas - Christmas is part of the story of Jesus”
There’s a shift in perspective here that is important to hold onto.
For the Christian, Jesus is the center. Everything else follows in around Him. For Jesus, the center is not “Sleep in heavenly peace” with a warm glow on your face. For Jesus, the center is the Cross. “For even the Son of Man came not be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). St. Paul echoes this center of the Christian life, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
So, don’t get me wrong. Please still sing Silent Night by candlelight and enjoy it! But, let’s all allow the entirety of the hymn’s message to sink in. We have “heavenly peace” (st. 1) because this is “the dawn of redeeming grace” (st. 3) as we remember that “Christ the Savior is born” (st. 2).