by Gary McHale
For some the true meaning of Christmas is found in family and friends gathering to enjoy opening presents, eating turkey and pumpkin pie. For others Christmas has something to do with Santa Claus, elves and flying reindeer.
Much has changed over the past 100 years to the point where most people couldn’t tell you what the true meaning of Christmas is. Recently, a YMCA chapter in the USA banned Santa Claus from their display claiming it was too religious and thus they only use a snowman with penguins.
Many organizations that were Christian 100 years ago have no Christianity in them today. In 1844 in London, England Sir George Williams formed the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) with the goal of having an organization which puts Christian principles into practice. More locally, McMaster University was formed in 1887 and was owned and controlled by the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec and, prior to 1887 operated under the name Toronto Baptist College. It wasn’t until 1927 that McMaster University agreed to move from Toronto to Hamilton.
It is not surprising that average people have difficulty understanding Christmas when the institutions that were created by Christians no longer retain any real Christian views. While our institutions come and go the true meaning of Christmas hasn’t changed since the day the angels first appeared and spoke the good news to the shepherds in Bethlehem.
A simple message with profound implications which is that ‘in the town of David [Bethlehem] a Saviour has been born and he is the Christ and Lord”.
God’s answer to a world filled with hatred, lies and indifference to their fellow man was not to give up but to provide a way out for those bound by fear and sin. God sent the Truth which then led to Reconciliation.
The Truth being that we all have sinned and need a Saviour and the Reconciliation is provided when Jesus was born to ensure that reconciliation between God and man occurs. The Bible sums it up by stating, “All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us a ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
You cannot have reconciliation without truth.
This is true even in our society. It isn’t until the alcoholic admits the truth that he is an alcoholic that healing and reconciliation with family and friends can occur. Prior to the admission of the truth we can talk around the issue, avoid the issue or hide from the issue but the reconciliation cannot occur until the truth is confronted face to face.
As for Christians, to whom God gave the ministry of reconciliation, we are bound both to help in the reconciliation between God and man but also with our neighbours – biblically a neighbour is anyone you come into contract with.
For the Christian, Christmas is not just one day a year but something that must be practiced every day of the year. As such Christians are bound to confront injustice, lies, sin and evil with the Truth in hopes of bringing about Reconciliation.
For many, religion has become irrelevant in today’s modern world. It is hard to argue against such a view when many professing to be Christians do not take a stand, or act in a way different than average people. Christianity is more than showing up in church and singing a few hymns and saying a few prayers.
Jesus could have easily spent his days praying to God without ever leaving his home town. Instead he became an outside interloper who traveled from town to town confronting people with the Truth. The result of Jesus’ approach to Christianity was that an angry mob screamed out for him to be crucified. At his trial Jesus stated, “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” to which Pilate said, “What is truth?”
The same question has been asked through the ages. In our modern world we believe there isn’t any real truth which allows individual people to pick and choose (like they are at a buffet) which parts they will believe and which they will reject.
Of course the Apostles followed Jesus’ brand of Christianity, as demonstrated by Paul who was the outside interloper who travelled throughout Israel, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, and confronted people with the truth. The result was the same as with Jesus. Paul stated, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.”
I certainly understand why Christians today want their beliefs to be private and separate from their everyday life. Who wants the world to hate them or have their neighbour curse their name and attack them for their beliefs?
However, Christians have a special duty to bring about Truth and Reconciliation but it is not limited to Christians. Currently the Canadian Government has set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because “there is an emerging and compelling desire to put the events of the past behind us so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future. The truth telling and reconciliation process as part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy is a sincere indication and acknowledgement of the injustices and harms experienced by Aboriginal people and the need for continued healing.”
It would be unreasonable to suggest Natives should simply move on or that Governments have no obligation to deal with the true experiences of Native people.
In the same way, anyone claiming we should simply overlook the abuses committed by the McGuinty Government, the OPP and the violence caused by Native protesters are, in fact, acting in a way counterproductive to Truth and Reconciliation.
Anyone wishing to simply bury the Truth or hide from the Truth is acting in a way that is also contrary to Christian principles and against the meaning of Christmas.
After you have opened your presents, eaten dinner and spent time with family, will there be any room left to live out Christmas in the new year by helping to bring about Truth and Reconciliation?
I hope the Spirit of Christmas will live on past the dinner and presents.
NOTE: This article is Gary McHale’s column for the Regional News, Dec 22/10.
Merry Christmas to all my readers. I will not be posting again until the new year. Comments, if any, will be posted then.
Mark Vandermaas, Editor