"The Monument of Christmas"
Monuments are important. Why? Because for some reason, we are forgetful people. We don’t remember the lessons of the past. We easily forget how and why we got where we are today. We take our current situations for granted. We are not thankful for those who came before us to lay the groundwork of everything we now enjoy. Monuments, then, are created to remind us of our past.
This is an ancient practice. In fact, even in the Bible we see instances where God commands his people to create monuments of reminder. When Joshua leads the children of Israel into the promised land, God miraculously stops the Jordan river from flowing in order that they may walk through on the dry river bed. This is a moment that God wants the people to remember for generations to come, so He gives Joshua instructions to remove twelve stones from the river bed and set them up as a monument. “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off” (Joshua 4:6-7). Therefore, these stones were a memorial, a reminder of something that happened in the past.
We need these reminders. We need monuments in order that we don’t forget the importance of what happened in the past and how we should view those moments in the present. This is so important, especially at this time of year. You see, I believe Christmas is a monument.
No, Christmas may not be a statute or a memorial wall, but it is a reminder of something that happened in the past. More and more, our culture tries to divorce Christmas from its past, trying to make it a day where we simply exchange brightly wrapped gifts with family and friends. However, we all know that Christmas is something more. So many aspects of our Christmas celebrations betray our “secularizing” of this day.
One of the most obvious aspects of this great “monument” is the music that fills our homes, cars, and stores. Sure, we may sing about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Frosty the snowman, but we also can’t help but sing “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, or “The First Noel”. These songs are simply ingrained in our hearts and minds as vital aspects of Christmas. Yet, I often wonder if we consider the words of these songs.
Take the song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” for instance. Do you believe those lyrics? The first stanza says, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Do you believe that the only hope for this world is Christ? Do you believe that the only way to be made right with God is through the death and resurrection of Christ? Has your belief in this been evidenced by your turning from your sin and turning to Christ alone for salvation? Have you called out to Him to save you? If not, I implore you not to just sing this song but to heed what it teaches. You see, we can’t get away from it; Christmas is about God infiltrating His own creation in order to save His people.
How about these lyrics in the second stanza? “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell. Jesus, our Emmanuel.” Can you affirm these words as true? What do you think about the Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas? Do you think Jesus was merely a traveling moral teacher in the 1st century pointing people to God? Perhaps, you believe Jesus is a created being like an angel or some sort of a demi-god. What about the idea that Jesus was a son of God in the same way that you might have a son, and that His birth was brought about in natural procreation, the same way that your son was?
Do any of these reflect your beliefs? If so, I don’t think you can actually sing this song with integrity because you don’t believe what it says. When Charles Wesley wrote this song and George Whitefield helped tweak it, they were pulling glorious truth straight from the words of the Bible. Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us. If you don’t believe that Jesus is the Mighty God, “El Gibbor”, as it says in Isaiah 9:6, then can you in good conscience sing this song? If you don’t believe that Jesus is the eternal God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, who humbled Himself in order to become the perfect sacrifice for sin (Philippians 2), then do these words even make sense to you? Can you truly celebrate Christmas if you don’t believe this? I’m not trying to be divisive during this wonderful time of year and I’m not staking the sole claim to Christmas carols. I’m simply asking you to listen to the words of these great songs and ask yourself if you believe them.
These songs are a monument. It’s true that many people have forgotten the purpose of Christmas. It’s true that many people sing these songs and don’t believe the words they contain. However, here we are with all of these reminders of what Christmas is all about and why we should celebrate this time of year. The monument is before us. The question is, “Are we going to remember?”
Christmas is a monument that, thankfully, remains even in our pop culture. While many people will celebrate this day with no recognition of its meaning or purpose, true followers of Christ can point to it and explain why this day exists. Yes, people are forgetful, but while we can, we must proclaim what Christmas is all about, we must point them to that for which this great monument stands.