George Bowers Sr.: What do you celebrate?

George Bowers Sr.

With the turning of the final page of the calendar next week, we usher in the red and the green. Welcome to the month of Christmas! This holiday is the premier celebration of the entire year for most Americans and a tremendous boon for retail businesses as well. What is it about this special time that you most enjoy? Is it the decorations? The parties? The music? The family gatherings? The gifts? Or the food? All of these are strong contenders for top billing and the combination of them all mixed together certainly positions Christmas as the Highlight of Holidays.

In all of these wrappings, however, it is easy to totally overlook the underlying purpose of this special day. What is the driving reason for this massive annual celebration? Obviously it is the time we’ve chosen to recognize the birth of the Savior. While we don’t have definitive proof of the actual date of His nativity, it’s still appropriate to make a big deal about God becoming human and dwelling among us.

Because Jesus was God in the flesh, His arrival on earth justifies extra expense as well as special decorations, parades and events. If Jesus had not come, died and rose again, we’d still be lost in our sins and destined for an eternal hell. So Christmas should be a big deal for Christians! Christmas should make us happy. Our celebration of it should be joyful and pleasing, as long as it is for His glory and not just to make ourselves feel good. It’s not wrong for us to get pleasure from the seasonal festivities but we must be aware that all of this can easily become self-serving rather than Christ-honoring.

I wonder what we really cherish most about this time of year. Is it Christ or Christmas that we truly worship? This is no small issue, but central for each of us to consider. We should each take a good hard look deep into our souls to determine the true answer to this question, for it ultimately reveals whether we celebrate Christmas for our own benefit or for that of the Messiah. Even passionate Christians can honor the Savior at Christmas while unknowingly worshiping the celebration of it even more. When we do, it is not unlike the serious sin of idolatry and something we should avoid at all costs.

The enemy of our souls is very deceptive in his strategies and he knows that if he can subtly corrupt a great holiday such as Christmas, he has scored a major victory. He knows how prone our hearts are to self-service and can easily redirect our best worship of God to self-satisfaction. We like the way our house looks and that becomes our reason for decorating. We’re proud of the way the carol sounds and forget the One it glorifies even as we sing it. The food is pleasing to our palates, but we neglect the purpose of our annual feasts. We share time with family and friends at numerous parties but talk far more about each other than about our Master. Even our church programs can become occasions to adore our cute little children (which is wonderful) without recognizing how surpassingly beautiful Jesus is.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these aspects of our Christmas celebrations. But it’s important to thoroughly examine our hearts and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our true motives. Confess whatever He exposes and invite His help to celebrate Jesus’ birth in a way that makes Him the happiest, not us. Let’s be sure to worship Christ and not Christmas. Celebrating Jesus, George.

George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, Holy Verses. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.