It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks, we will celebrate the birth of the greatest individual to ever walk the earth. Jesus was not only miraculously born of a virgin and taught incredible truths, but after dying an excruciating death, he rose from the dead and lives forevermore.

It’s no wonder then that many of his followers are adamant about keeping Jesus at the forefront of our Christmas celebrations. Jesus’ mission and purpose get seriously hijacked whenever someone says, “Happy Holidays” to avoid mentioning his name. If you don’t want to celebrate his birth that’s fine, but if you do celebrate, it’s important to honor the one whose birth it is.

Although this is an important truth to acknowledge, it’s unfortunate that many people stop at that. In addition to simply wishing others a Merry Christmas, it’s also important to be sure that other symbols and images don’t replace or overshadow Jesus. He must be the highest and most central part of our celebrations and this should be clear to even our youngest children.

While this involves decorations that highlight him, it also involves singing songs that celebrate his birth, life, death, and resurrection. It means preventing other secular songs and symbols from overtaking the uniqueness of the Christ Child and relegating him to second or third place. It means honoring Jesus by worshipping him weekly with other believers but also daily in our private devotions. It means tuning our radios and televisions to stations that elevate and celebrate the real reason for this and every season.

So far, this might be painless enough and could even evoke a hearty, “Amen!” from those already doing such things. But there are other ways it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas as well. In our shopping, Christians should be conscious of where and how the products we buy were made and transported. Do the prices we pay provide a livable wage and decent respect for whoever manufactured our gifts? Are the materials and processes used sustainable? It’s not always possible to know all of this but many free trade stores exist for those willing to seek them out. Keeping Christ in Christmas means respecting people as Jesus does and being a good steward of his creation.

It’s also easy for even Christ followers to get wrapped up (pardon the pun) in the materialism that has come to surround Christmas. Keeping Christ in Christmas means making an effort to minimize this focus and instead, keeping it on Jesus himself. Can we still have a great Christmas even without giving or receiving a single gift?

To keep Christ in Christmas also means doing what Jesus told us to do. One great way to do that is to reach out to the less fortunate and provide for their needs. Sadly, many are experiencing homelessness and/or hunger and we can keep Christ in Christmas by doing what we can to help them. We can either provide direct assistance or support churches and ministries that do. Singing Merry Christmas while ignoring human need around us is like what James 2:16-17 warns us of, “If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

The most important way to keep Christ in Christmas is to honor him by our obedience throughout the year. Jesus has called all of his followers to holiness and the more of that we demonstrate the more pleased he is. Although our obedience doesn’t earn our salvation, it should demonstrate it. Jesus told us that if we truly love him we will keep his commandments. Personal obedience and holiness are great gifts to give back to Jesus.

Keeping Christ in Christmas, and in every day, should be the goal of each of his followers. It means showing love to one another and obeying his word. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth again this year, let’s say, “Merry Christmas,” but let’s also honor him in these other ways as well. Merry Christmas, George

George Bowers is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored 13 books, including his latest devotional, “Blessings, Volume II,” which is a collection of these articles. It is available at Four Star Printing and Shenandoah Stuff. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.

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