Christian, Have You Been Skipping Christmas?
Skipping Christmas? The idea sounds outlandish and ridiculous to our ears. But many who claim Christ skip Christmas every year.
We laugh at the problems that Luther and Laura Krank encounter when they try to skip Christmas to go on a Caribbean cruise. Most of us could never imagine being harassed by our neighbors to host Christmas parties, to hang up Frosty, and to buy the Christmas tree.
We also find the sinister character of Ebenezer Scrooge striking and captivating. Few of us have known someone who so thoroughly hated Christmas. And so we read and watch the Christmas Carol to see if he can hold to his convictions for another year.
Both of these stories captivate our attention because they reveal how people who have encountered the glories of the holiday and have great knowledge of the holiday choose to demonstratively skip Christmas. They refuse to buy police calendars and skip their nephew’s Christmas party.
But the skipping of Christmas is not a western problem birthed from fiction. The very first story of people skipping Christmas appears in Matthew 2:1-12. The Chief Priest and Scribes refused to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Now I do not wish to imply that the leaders of the Jewish world refused to put up their Christmas trees, to buy presents, or to attend Christmas parties. None of those things existed in the Jerusalem two thousand years ago. These men did not skip Christmas by objecting to the western and slightly commercialized Christmas traditions of our day. They did something far worse. They refused to worship Jesus. They skipped Christmas when they refused to worship Jesus as the Lord of the universe.
Regardless of how many presents we wrap, how many carols we sing, and how many church services we attend, we too have and will continue to skip Christmas if we refuse to worship Jesus. To avoid skipping Christmas, we must worship Jesus as our Lord.
The actions and inactions of the Chief Priests and the Scribes were notable because these men were intelligent. The Chief Priest and the Scribes were not a group of bumbling fools like the three stooges who could barely stand up and articulate a reasonable sentence. When they arrived at Herod’s court to offer counsel, they knew where to turn. Standing before an often violent and deranged king who would eventually execute the children of Bethlehem, his own sons and his second wife (the daughter of the Chief Priest), the men delivered an informed Biblical answer. They were cool, calm, and collected as they recounted Micah 5:2 to the troubled king. They had an abundance of religious experiences and knowledge to guided them through this political mine field. Yet, their great experiences and knowledge did not lead them to worship. They still missed Christmas. They still did not go to worship baby Jesus even though they knew more of God than the wise men.
As we reflect on the actions of the Pharisees, we must check our hearts to see if we confused religious experiences with faith. The Chief Priest regularly entered the temple to offer sacrifices. They lead the Passover celebration; they even entered the Holy of Holies, the most sacred space on earth, once a year to commune with God and to offer sacrifices for all the people of Israel. They ate, breathed, and quite literally wore their religion on their sleeves. Yet they did not worship God when the arrival of the Messiah was announced. They were around the things of God, claimed to be part of God’s family. Yet, they wanted nothing to do with God.
They are not alone, Countless numbers of men and women believe they are Christians because they cried during a service, got baptized, or gave large sums of money to their church’s building fund. Many who claim Christ have a wallet full of meaningful, moving, and exciting religious experiences, but they have never worshiped. They have never humbled themselves before the throne and cried out, “God forgive me for I am a sinner. Save me; redeem me. Give me faith and a new heart.” They have never responded to the Christmas story, the gospel story, by believing. They are content to go on living apart from God. They are content to live as if they are on heaven’s throne. Friends do not confuse religious experience for true worship.
And we must not confuse knowledge for worship. The Chief Priest and the Scribes are knowledgeable. Their years of training and studying prepared them to rattle off the theologically accurate answer to king Herod. They know more than their king and more than the Wise Men who are intent on worshiping Christ. Yet, the Chief Priests and the Scribes did not go. They did not worship. Knowledge is essential for worship. The wise men come to Jerusalem because they have seen the star and go to Bethlehem because they have understood the Scriptures shared by the Chief Priests and Scribes. We should regularly expose our hearts and the hearts of our children to the Scriptures in our homes, at church, and in every venue in life. To worship God, men and women must know truth about him. But truth does not equal nor demand worship.
We can have great knowledge and not worship God. We can memorize large portions of the Bible and still not worship God. We can teach in seminary, we can lecture our friends on how to raise their kids, and we can have years of sermon notes and never worship God. Great knowledge does not produce great worship. Without the Holy Spirit knowledge puffs up and entrenches the pride in our hearts.
True worship consists of more than experiences and knowledge . True worship consists of life changing faith in the work and person of Jesus, our Messiah. Those who worship Christ fall down before Christ. They surrender every part of their person, career, and life to Jesus. Those who worship God declare with their mouths and believe in their hearts that God is worthy of all praise, honor, and fame. And because they worship God from a heart of love, their lives begin to reflect the glory of God. They overcome sin, they develop a love for God’s Word, and they love others. Those who truly worship God, those who are truly Christians follow the example of the Wise men and bow before Jesus, offering him their all.
Many who claim Christ this Christmas will skip another Christmas. Sure, they will put up their trees, send out their cards, and attend their Christmas Eve candlelight services. Yes, they will retell the nativity store for the hundredth time with all the enthusiasm of a bored child. They will have a wealth of experience and knowledge but they will have never worshiped Christ. They will have never decided to make Christ their all. They see Jesus and go about their business unmoved and unchanged. They skip Christmas like the Chief Priests and the Scribes.
Do not skip Christmas this year. Repent and believe today. Join with the wise men this very minute and go and worship Christ, the New Born King!