I was driving an ex-minister friend of mine to a Sunday service when he turned to me and said, “So what’s your doctrine of gambling?” He had just won a lottery and was wrestling with his conscience. Many Christians wrestle a little with Christmas. Should we celebrate it, after all it is a pagan festival. Yes, but it’s a great time to witness to unsaved family and friends… and so on. So then, what is my doctrine of Christmas?
In a previous article in Joy! I stated that I love Christmas because it is a time when the world remembers Jesus and comes to bow down before him. My research reveals that the Magi knelt before Jesus and presented their gifts on the 25th December 2 BC. However, in this article I would like to take the word Christmas and draw out a different doctrinal line.
The word is a composite of Christ and mass. ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek Christos meaning ‘anointed’. Christ is ‘the anointed one’. ‘Mass’ is from the Latin missa meaning ‘dismissal’. The word occurs in the final liturgy of the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Mass). So, a literal meaning of Christmas would be ‘The anointed ones dismissal.’ Are you confused about where I am going with this? Just bear with me.
Disciples of Jesus Christ are called Christians. This means that we are the ones who believe in and worship the anointed one. It also means that we too are anointed ones. Jesus expressed something similar when He said “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5) but then also said “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). John wrote, ‘But you have an anointing from the Holy One…’ (1 John 2:20).
When He dismissed His first disciples, Jesus told them to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…” (Mark 16:15) and “…go and make disciples of all nations , baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So, perhaps much of the spirit of Christmas has to do with going into the world in the name of the anointed one, Jesus the Christ. Instead of gathering just as families around a roast turkey, perhaps we should invite the lonely unsaved to join us. Christmas is a depressing time for many people because they have neither faith nor family. Instead of shunning Christmas, as some do, I suggest we embrace its true spirit.
The Christmas day church service has always presented me with a challenge. For over twenty years, I have faithfully preached the Gospel on Christmas day. The ‘anointed ones’ nod approvingly and the rest brace themselves and successfully resist for another year. I ask myself, “Why not do something different this year?” What if we had a turkey lunch in the church building with the members serving the invited guests? Or, what would it be like to load the gathered congregation into busses and go into a poor suburb or township to distribute gifts, love, and an anointed message of hope? Now these are not very religious ideas are they? Perhaps we should just dismiss them – we could call it ‘religare missa’, religious dismissal.