Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Importance of Christmas and its Implications for Marriage

Some Christian groups have decided Christmas is not a Holy Day they want to celebrate. I don’t know the reasons all of them give, but some of them arrive at that conclusion because secular society has made Christmas into a season of commercialism and greed. Some say Christmas is based on pagan celebrations. Some add that Jesus was not born on December 25, so there is no reason to celebrate that day.

What does the Bible say about this reasoning? The Apostle Paul had a similar situation with the folks that refused to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Now, since idols are powerless, what does it matter if the meat was offered to idols? Meat is meat. Give thanks to God and eat it.

In the same way, what does it matter what the greedy commercialists, the pagans, and the surrounding culture do? Christ was born, the shepherds came rejoicing to worship Him, and the magi gave gifts to honor Him. Isn’t that what we should be doing? While it is true we should be honoring Him every day of the year, the Bible also supports a special day of honor. First, the example of the shepherds and the magi gives us a clue to what our behavior should be. And the example of Simeon and Anna in the temple suggests we need to treat the coming of Jesus as no ordinary event. In addition, we see an example of rejoicing in the father of the prodigal son, who put on a feast, killing the fatted calf (that apparently was raised to be used for a special occasion) when his son returned.

But what is so important about Jesus being born? Why not quietly and privately worship Him, and not make such a big deal about it?

The big deal is Who Jesus is. He’s not just a king, or the son of a king. Think of how people behave when Prince Charles comes anywhere close by, or how they flocked around Princess Diana. Dignitaries are a big deal. Jesus is God, specifically the Son of God. The omnipotent (that means all-powerful), omnipresent (that means present everywhere), the eternal and everlasting and without end, the holy (that means totally whole and without sin.). There is no other like God or like Jesus, and He is not obligated to give us sinners the time of day. Indeed, if He were like many humans, He would snub us and have nothing to do with us, because we sinners are so distasteful.

In addition, the big deal is where He is from. The eternal Heaven is His home, a beautiful place of splendor and majesty, where all is peace and joy and love all the time. Heaven is much more splendorous than any king’s palace, any garden, any building on earth. None of us would ever want to leave such a place.

Yet Jesus left His home of beauty and eternal satisfaction to come to this cruel, pain-filled earth. It would be somewhat like you or I leaving our comfortable middle-class homes to go live underground with the moles and mice, or perhaps the roaches, termites, or ants. We would always be uncomfortable in our new existence, and we would always long for the comforts of home. Yet, we would go because we wanted to save the creatures from a fate worse than physical death, and because we wanted to bridge the gap between us and them so the creatures can relate to us in a loving, fulfilling way, while bringing unspeakable joy into their lives. It would be all about us choosing to sacrifice our own happiness for their sakes.

That is what Jesus did. While He was here, Jesus self-sacrificially spent long hours healing many sick and handicapped people, and He taught attitudes and truths for living that can bring beauty in our lives in spite of circumstances.

But Jesus went beyond just living among us and suffering along with us from human cruelty and greed. He, who was sinless and did not deserve to be punished or to die, bore the punishment for our sins. We were the ones who deserved to die. But Jesus died in our place.

Without Jesus having come to earth and sacrificing His life for us, we would always be distant from God. Because we did not have the Holy Spirit, we would constantly be making wrong choices unless we carefully kept away from all sin-prone people. Even so, we would need to sacrifice animals to God so that their blood showed Satan that we indeed belong to God and that Satan has no rights over us. But these sacrifices would never remove our sin or free us from sin; they would merely cover or blot out our sin. Why was appearing sinless to Satan so important? We already know God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, but Satan? If sin wasn’t covered by shedding the blood of an innocent animal, when Satan looked at a person, he would see his own DNA of sin, so to speak (Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies,” and by extension, he is also the father of all other sin.), and that would signal to him that the person is a member of Satan’s tribe and is available for Satan’s use. So Christ’s sacrifice in coming to earth, living among us, and dying for us, shedding His blood once and for all, made all the animal blood sacrifices unnecessary. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can be redeemed from sin and death if we choose, and Satan has no dominion over us. It is a very big deal.

But there is more to the story. Husbands are told to love their wives like Christ loved the church. I was at a wedding yesterday and saw something I don’t remember noticing before in Ephesians 5: 25 & 26a “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy…” The implication is that just as Jesus’ loving sacrifice of self makes the church holy, so also the husband’s loving sacrifice of self makes his wife holy, (or ‘more perfect’ if we use human terms). This is not just speaking of the sacrifice of making money so she has food, shelter, and clothing. That particular sacrifice is usually a trade; he makes the money in exchange for her caring for house, children, and him, and she raises the level of respect given to him by society. No, the self-sacrifice is to be like the sacrifice Jesus made, where the bottom line is her welfare and the desire for close companionship with her. (I’m not speaking of s*x here.) Griping and yelling, putting her down and other control tactics do not make her more perfect. They make her more afraid, and therefore more accident-prone, more likely to make fear-based decisions, and less perfect.

Just like Jesus left the comforts of His home to meet the needs of his bride, so also a man should marry for the sake of what he can do for his bride rather than for what she can do for him. This is a tall order, especially in a world where men are seen as the important individuals whose needs and wants must be met, and women are seen as tools to help men gain what they want. But if a man wants to be all God asks him to be, he must put his wife and her desires and needs ahead of his own, just like Jesus did. Indeed, if he is marrying to satisfy his s*xual desires, to have someone to keep house for him, and because he wants to have a hot meal waiting for him when he comes home from work, he is marrying for the wrong reasons.

However, if he is marrying to provide shelter, food, and clothing for her, along with a loving, safe, and respectful home, or to fulfill her desire to have children and the resources and help to care for and nurture them, or to help provide resources so her desire to make a difference in the world can be fulfilled, or to walk side by side with her while they both work to provide resources to make a difference in society, or even to remove the stigma of singleness from her and to raise her status in society, or a combination of all or some of the above, then he is marrying for the right reason, and his part of their marriage will be a symbol of Christ in relation to His church.

I am beginning to notice an interesting correlation. Is it cause and effect? The groups who refuse to celebrate Christmas, usually don’t celebrate Easter either, and they also tend to focus on wife submission and husband leadership, but brush over or completely ignore the husband’s responsibility to love self-sacrificially as Christ did. Are these also the groups who are more prone to tell abused wives to go home and submit to their husbands and that it is unbiblical to leave their abusers? A woman at the wedding reception pointed out to me that if a man really understands the sacrificial love of Jesus and what that means for us, and if he chooses Christ as his Lord and Savior, he would never abuse or mistreat his wife.

Yet I know of a number of men who claim to be Christians, who have chosen Jesus as Savior and who claim to have chosen Him as Lord, who also seek to control their wives, and even abuse them. Is the problem that these men do not understand Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for us? And if they do not understand it, have they really received Him? If they claim His sacrifice is something they deserve, (which is their attitude in most areas of life—especially toward their wives) aren’t they belittling Jesus’ sacrifice for us in general and for themselves in particular? Or if they admit they do not deserve His sacrifice, and accept His grace, but continue abusing their wives, (which is “falling away”) are they not “crucifying the Lord of Glory again?” Hebrews 6:6. If so, Hebrews 10: 26-27 pronounces judgment on them: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

Or, because of the male-superior attitudes and teaching of church leaders, do these men not understand the self-sacrifice God requires of them, particularly toward their wives? But, if all Christian men practiced this self-sacrifice, they would be an example and salt and light to non-Christian men. In addition, they'd impress non-Christian women which would likely have the effect of drawing them toward Christ. Currently, many women leave the church because of their churches adding to the abuse from their husbands. Thus, men loving self-sacrificially as Paul teaches would have an evangelistic effect that is currently not happening in a large number of churches. Somehow, Christians need to start seeing male self-sacrifice as a strength to be cultivated, rather than as a weakness as the world would teach.

God bless you all this Christmas!
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit