Is It Christmas?

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Two recent surveys by Lifeway and USA Today/Gallop are verifying what many people have felt for a long time. Christmas is becoming less a Holy day and more a holiday.

Surveys discovered that 9 out of 10 Americans celebrate the holiday, even if they are atheists or agnostics or believers in some non-Christian faith.

The survey indicates that a gap is being created between what we say we believe and what we do. Belief and behavior are at odds.

Most respondents in the survey indicate that Christmas is “primarily” religious, but for most people that doesn’t translate into Christian practices. For example 89% give gifts, 86% enjoy a meal with family or friends, 80% put up a Christmas tree and play holiday music.

When it comes to religious activities, only 58% say they “encourage belief in Jesus Christ as Savior.” Only 47% attend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day worship, and only 28% read or tell the Christmas story from the Bible.

There is definitely a disconnect between saying that Christmas is a religious holiday, and practicing it as such. It appears that Christmas is becoming more and more secular rather than sacred. Scott McConnell, the director of Lifeway research, says that most people “give a head nod to Jesus while they spend their time and dime pleasing themselves.” Most people who say that Christmas is religious, skip church, omit Jesus, and zero in on the eggnog.

The songs we listen to at Christmas indicate what the day means to us. In the last five years the song played most often was “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

The list of top 25 most performed songs during the Christmas season was recently released by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). This is a radio air play monitoring service. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “Silent Night” did not make the top 25 list. The only explicitly religious song, “Little Drummer Boy,” made the list coming in at number 8.

The best way to change anything in society is to begin with me. Then let that move out to my sphere of influence. I do enjoy putting up the decorations, celebrating with the parties, but it is up to us to practice the priority of remembering whose birthday it really is. Christmas is not about my need to get and to give – it is about Jesus. It is not my birthday – it is His. It is not about my entertainment but about my worship of Him.

Let’s start a new trend. Let’s make this a Christ-centered Christmas. Let’s focus, in belief and behavior, on the fact that “Unto you is born this day…a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

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