The vast majority of professing Christians celebrate Christmas, but do they celebrate God during Christmas? Has the holiday become so commercialized, secular, and pagan that it’s passed redeeming? Join AMBrewster as he helps Christians all over the world re-infuse the Twelve Days of Christmas with God-focused, Gospel-centered, Christ-elevating worship.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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We are two episodes in to Season 2 of The Year Long Celebration of God, and we’re discussing a topic that may seem all too familiar to most of us.
Unlike Advent, the chances that you have observed a Christmas celebration at one point or another are very good. So, what could we possible have to say that you don’t already know.
Well, first, I know — for myself — that I’ve spent the vast majority of my 40 Christmases not worshipping God — at least most of the time. I believe that’s probably the case for more people than not.
Second, most protestants observe Christ’s birth only one day of the year, but the Celebration of God dedicates 12 days to the celebration. Unlike the Catholic observation of days, I believe The Celebration of God has a much more Christ-honoring approach.
And third, Christ-followers are commanded by God to be disciple-makers. How many of us have gone into Christmastide with the intentional goal of making disciples?
With these three issues in mind, I think it would be wise for all of us to take a step back from our traditions and be prepared to consider what the Bible has to say about December 25th.
But before we do that, I want to invite all parents —or parents-to-be — to subscribe to a podcast called Truth.Love.Parent. TLP is dedicated to equipping dads and moms to be the disciple-making parents God called and created them to be. If you appreciate The Celebration of God, you’ll love Truth.Love.Parent.
And don’t forget that free episode notes, transcripts, and holiday-related resources are available for you at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Now, how about we discuss your last first-Christmas?
I’ve been a follower of Christ since I was 9 years old, but I know that I’ve spent a lot of that time getting waylaid, turned around, and distracted by my own plans.
I spent the majority of my teens years as a double-minded man unstable in all of my ways, and my Christmas celebrations were consistent with that reality.
It’s not that I was a completely selfish jerk who consumed the entire season for self; I did care deeply about my Savior’s incarnation, but I was also easily distracted by all the shiny baubles modern Christmases offer.
To this day, even though I know that Easter is the quintessential Christian holiday, and even though I’m learning to love it the way I should, I still get that ever-special tingly sensation in my chest when Christmastime is near.
My go-to feel-good music is Christmas music — sacred and secular.
The most decorating I’ll do in my house all year is during Christmas.
Now, not all of that is bad, but I know — for me — a lot of it is a remnant of wrong priorities. So, today we’re going to investigate some of the most common distractions Christians face this time of year and discover the biblical focus we should have.
How can we best Prepare for Christmas? Well, the best way will be to identify where we’re not following Christ and then get back on track.
So, let’s jump in.
1. Christmas has been secularized.
It’s been rightly noted that a drunkard will never seek help until he recognizes there’s a problem.
In the same way, Christians will not be able to worship God wholeheartedly during Christmas until we recognize the problem in our approach to Christmas.
One of the main problems is that Christmas has been secularized.
To secularize something is to remove the genuinely spiritual element. Of the eight billion people on this planet, most of the ones who observe Christmas do so in a completely secular manner. God has been removed from the experience entirely.
And there are many shades of secularization. You can remove God completely. You can substitute God for a false god. You can remove God to varying degrees, or you can remove God to one degree while substituting a false god to the same degree.
But instead of focusing on the multiplicity of wrong ways to do Christmas, let’s establish right here and right now that God absolutely must have His place during Christmas just like He must have His place during every other day of the year.
And what is that place? Absolute preeminence.
Colossians 1:18 describes Christ in this way: “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”
This is the only place in the entire Bible where the Greek Word translated “preeminent” is used. Therefore, it’s important to know as much about the original word as possible since there are no other passages of Scripture to shed additional light. This particular word simply means “to be first.”
And that is the perfect word to use considering that the entire passage discusses the incomparable Christ. We have redemption in Him alone. He created the world. He has the premier right as firstborn — not that He ever came into being, but that He is the sole heir of eternity. Verse 17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
There is nothing more important that God. Romans 11:36 says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
Wether we’re reading the Scriptures or playing a video game, God must have the preeminence. It must be done to His honor and glory in a way that pleases Him . . . every time . . . all the time.
That means that — when speaking of Christmas — it’s in our and our disciplee’s best interest to focus on the spiritual element of the celebration.
Notice that I did not say “bring the spiritual back into it.” You cannot truly separate the spiritual from the physical. There is no detachment between the sacred and the secular. Not that there isn’t a difference between righteousness and evil; there is simply no word or deed or thought or belief that is void of the spiritual dimension. The spiritual is always at play whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
So, it’s our responsibility to stop ignoring the spiritual. We need to own the spiritual nature of Christmas. No Christian should ever participate in a secularized version. To ignore God and His will is always a sin whether it’s at Christmas or not.
But how do we engage with the necessary spiritual reality of Christmas? We’ll discuss that more in a minute.
The first problem is that too many people have secularized Christmas by ignoring the necessary spiritual realities of the season.
2. Christmas emphasizes noble desires to the exclusion of God.
This may sound like the last point since we’re taking about excluding God. But it’s not a repeat; it’s an addition. Because God has been excluded, something else had to take His place.
In the case of Christmas, the replacement wasn’t Satan per se. It’s wasn’t ritual cat sacrifice, murder, and adultery. They didn’t remove God and replace Him with behaviors and traditions the Bible clearly identifies as sin. Instead of God, man started emphasizing gift-giving, family, baking, rest, feasting, singing about jingle bells, and decorating.
Now, please hear what I’m saying. I am not saying that gift-giving, family, baking, resting, feasting, singing about jingle bells, and decorating are inherently sinful. That’s not true.
Let me illustrate the problem this way. To care for a dog you must feed it and brush it and play with it and give it water and let it outside and care for its health. Brushing the dog is very important. But if I stop feeding and watering the dog and only focus on brushing the dog . . . there’s a huge problem!
The world has been putting a greater and greater emphasis on family during what they call “the holidays.” Is emphasizing family wrong? By no means! I believe — generally speaking — family ranks higher in importance than our jobs and even church. Those who don’t care for their families are guiltier than unbelievers.
So — no — emphasizing family during Christmas isn’t bad at all . . . but when you mix that with secularization, you’re in trouble.
When love of family — which is meant to glorify God — is divorced from God, it doesn’t glorify Him.
And all of that leads to our third point.
3. Christmas has become a sacrifice to self.
When you take biblical concepts and remove God, you’ve stolen what should have been used for His honor and glory and used it for your own self instead.
We’ve spoken of this often. It’s true that Cain offered God an unacceptable sacrifice. Doing what God hates is always wrong. But — many times — the sacrifice being offered is an otherwise acceptable sacrifice. The problem is that the sacrifice is being offered to the wrong god.
God wants me to interact with my family in His ways for His reasons for His glory. But when I interact with my family in my ways for my reasons . . . or even when I interact with my family in His ways for my reasons . . . I’m engaging in idolatry because I’ve offered to my own pleasure the sacrifice that should have been offered solely to God.
These three points create a depressing circle that steals God’s glory and makes our celebration of Christmas impotent to please the Lord.
When we remove God from Christmas, we will inevitably exalt elements of Christmas divorced from God’s purposes, and each of those elements will be spent on my own joy versus Christ’s.
So how do we break the cycle? How can we know for certain that God is glorified by our Christmas celebration?
He must have the preeminence.
So, let’s talk about giving God first pace.
1. We must prepare our hearts to worship God.
Self worship — otherwise known as idolatry and spiritual adultery — is our natural, sinful bent. We must be intentional in order to worship God as we should.
The single best way to prepare our minds to worship God during Christmas is to worship God leading up to Christmas.
Imagine this. What if tomorrow you weren’t allowed to check your social media at all. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Twitter, no Parler . . . nothing.
Many of your would struggle with that.
Why? Because you have a habit. Your instinctual response will be to pick up your phone and check social media tomorrow.
Well, now apply that to our worship of God. If you worship the Lord every day from December 1st through December 24th, I think you’re going to have a much harder time not worshipping Him on the 25th.
There are three main ways God wants us to worship Him today.
A. We must study the Bible.
II Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible was given to us that we may be equipped for every good work. We might say, “equipped to worship God.”
B. We must pray.
I’m looking forward to our future series on prayer and it’s part in The Celebration of God. Prayer is so incredibly important, and many of us don’t know what we’re missing.
C. We must obey.
When you encounter something in the Bible — let’s call it a “good work — then we need to do that work. We need to submit to Christ and obey His commands. If we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments.
If you go to CelebrationOfGod.com and click on the Christmas icon, you’ll be directed to a number of resources to help you prepare for Christmas. You’ll find various podcast episodes I created for Truth.Love.Parent. Those episodes will further establish your mind on God’s place in Christmas.
But you’ll also discover a Christmas Bible Reading list. Take time to meditate on those passages every day leading up to Christmas.
Pray through those passages. Thank the Lord, talk with Him about His Word.
And you can also post some of those passages in your house.
And that leads to . . .
2. We can prepare our spaces to make it easier to worship God.
If you haven’t yet heard Episode 16 about Your Celebration Wall, you really need to listen to it or what I’m about to say may be confusing.
One fantastic way to keep our minds focused on truly worshipping God during Christmas is to set up reminders. It may be as simple as dry erase marker on your bathroom mirror or a post-it on your monitor. Or your can set up a space in a prominent location in your home dedicated to reminding you that you’re not God.
Take a few passages from that reading list, put them on your Celebration Wall, glance at them throughout the day, commit them to memory, allow them to act as a prayer prompt, record blessings on the Wall, whatever it takes to purposefully draw your mind back to the fact that God must have first place in everything we do.
Here’s a great verse on which to meditate this season — John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
If you want to post a longer passage, Luke 2:10-14 proclaims, “‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”
You can set up a Celebration Wall almost anywhere. You can have one in your home, your business, your office, your classroom, and definitely in your church.
And another fantastic part of our Preparation for Christmas is . . .
3. We must prepare our fellow disciples to worship God.
This point is very similar to our first. We will still utilize the Scriptures and prayer. We still need to obey what we learn in the Bible. But the key difference is that we’re sharpening a brother or sister in Christ. We’re praying together, studying the Word together, we’re talking about God’s will for our lives.
All of us have people with whom the Lord wants us to have a redemptive relationship. It may have to start as an evangelistic relationship which will eventually — Lord willing — lead to a discipleship relationship, or it may start as two disciples worshipping God together.
Either way — whether the individual is born again or not — we should speak of the Gospel. In the Northern Hemisphere this season is called winter, in the Southern Hemisphere it’s called Summer, but regardless, this is the Season of Grace.
This season is all about exploring the glorious intricacies of God’s grace including the future gift of glorification.
Last Season we discussed our need for the Gospel, why do we talk about glorification before talking about justification?
Glorification is the one of the key motivations for justification. God created us to fellowship with Him in eternal perfection, but sin makes that impossible. No one who doesn’t want to fellowship with God in sinless perfection is ever going to follow Christ. But the person who recognizes that God’s way is best and that worshipping Him forever in glory is the highest calling we could ever have — that person — will enter into a relationship with God through justification.
Advent and Christmas and Valentines Day are wonderful opportunities to look forward to the awesome future day that God removes our sin and we are finally able to fellowship with Him as He originally planned.
I encourage you to talk about these glorious truths with your fellow disciples. Strengthen and sharpen each other so that when Christmas Day arrives, whether you are together or not, both of your minds will be reeling in the astonishing truths in which you’ve both been basking!
It will be pretty hard to be distracted by a lame God-substitute when you’ve spent four weeks Preparing to see God for Who He truly is.
Now, the plan is for us to discuss on our next show some concrete plans for celebrating God on Christmas as well as discipling on Christmas.
But the show after that is going to unfold an idea or two about how and why we can celebrate 12 full days of Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas episode will air on Christmas Day, so even if you don’t listen to it on December 25th, it will be there for days 2 through 12.
I hope you’re looking forward to a Christ-filled Christmas. One fantastic way to do that is go to CelebrationOfGod.com, click on the holidays tab and then the Christmas tab, and then listen to the podcast episode “Make Your Christmas More.”
You’re really going to like that one if you’re serious about giving Christ the preeminence this year.
As always, please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that more and more Christians can unify around our great God and give Him the first place that is rightfully His, and join us next time when we discuss how to celebrate Christmas to the glory of God.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.