Christmas is here and it should be a time of joy, reflection and appreciation. But judging from the harried shoppers in department stores and crowded mall parking lots, many people forget the real reason for the season.
The Christian observance commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah sent by God to save mankind. The celebration dates back to the 4th century and over time, many customs have become associated with the holiday such as wreaths, decorated trees, cards, Santa and gift giving.
While the customs are good, three local faith leaders urge people to remember who and why we are celebrating.
Making it plain, Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford, founder and pastor of Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church, headquartered in Inglewood, said, “Christmas is about Christ. The only Jesus people will see is in us.”
Expressing similar thoughts, Pastor Michael J. T. Fisher of Greater Zion Church Family in Compton offered, “I remind friends and family that Jesus Christ is the greatest gift given to them and remind them to give the greatest of ourselves to others.”
Pastor James K. McKnight of Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles believes that when it comes to holiday traditions, many leaders and believers are confused about the reason for Christmas.
“We would do well to answer the ‘why Jesus’ birthday deserves to be celebrated’ question,” noted McKnight. “We do well to really give some thought and teaching time to Matthew 1:21, which announces that Jesus will save his people and Matthew 1:23, which announces that Jesus will be God with us. Also, we do well to try to get into the minds of those who are intent on secularizing Christmas.”
Considering the increased commercialization of Christmas, the pastors suggested actions that believers can take to educate other celebrants about the real reason for the season.
“Several things come to mind that demonstrate the Christmas spirit. Love, mercy and forgiveness would be at the top of my list. From these actions come giving and sharing,” said Crawford.
“Our presence in the community is a great witness especially when we get involved with social and economic inequities that face us everyday. Our messages in church should honor Christ and create an atmosphere of empowerment and healing.”
Fisher added three simple ways to illustrate the spirit of the season. “Make charitable donations,
visit children in hospitals and feed the hungry,” he said.
McKnight recommended other steps such as visiting the sick or housebound, filling in for a full-time caregiver, asking family members to list the reasons they are thankful and sharing the comments at Christmas dinner and remembering the plight of those less fortunate.
“Let us be mindful that suffering and evil are present realities. In response, let’s commit on Christmas day to be the advocates for love, truth and grace that we want to see,” he said. “Let’s commit to being the spokespersons for righteousness, justice and equality that we want to hear.”