Despite the commercialism and secularization of the Christmas season, it remains a special time of year to believers in Jesus. At Christmas we think more readily of the impact of Christ’s birth, the joy that heralded his arrival and the majesty he forfeited in order to come and live among us.
Many who are not really believers also join the holiday festivities, sometimes even attending religious functions and reading the Bible account of the Nativity. For the most part, Christmas has become an integral part of our western civilization. Yet a significant minority—Jewish people—feel otherwise. To them, the Christmas season brings a certain degree of stress.
At Christmastime Jewish children become sharply aware at school and at play, that there is something different about them. Their beliefs and family customs differ from their Gentile friends and neighbors. They face the lure of beautiful decorations and the dilemma of the inevitable school Christmas program to which many Jewish parents object. And when the children ask why they may not have a tree, or why they may not participate in the Christmas play at school, they are told, Because we are Jewish.”
At Christmastime Jewish people hear Christians talking about the King of the Jews, the Messiah and the House of David without having a sense of participation. All the excitement and festivity are foreign to Jewish culture, and because Jewish people have been indoctrinated from youth that Christmas is not for them, they often feel somewhat alienated from the rest of society during this season. Though they might not even he able to put those feelings into words, they do know one thing: Christmas makes them uncomfortable.
Perhaps what makes unbelieving Jewish people most uncomfortable about Christmas is the confrontation of that age-old question: “What if it’s true?” If it is not true, all those who are celebrating Christ’s birth are making fools of themselves. On the other hand, if it is true, that truth demands more than most unbelieving Jewish people are willing to give. They would rather not consider the problem or be obliged to deal with it.
To a lesser degree, Christmas creates problems for us Jewish believers as well. People often ask us if and how we celebrate Christmas. Our answers vary because becoming a believer does not automatically produce a love for the cultural Christmas traditions in those who have never experienced them. Nevertheless, regardless of the mode or degree of Christmas festivity we choose, we do agree on one point: the Christmas season can be—and indeed ought to be—a time that honors the Lord and causes people to consider his gift of salvation. We know of many who first became aware of the gospel message while listening to Christmas carols. Those songs were the only clear-cut evangelistic statement that ever confronted them.
So commercialism aside, there are many good things about setting apart a specific time to meditate on the Savior’s birth. Christmas is a time to remember that he not only came into this world, but also into our hearts, and that we are grateful for the meaning he has given our lives. Though we cannot totally avoid the mad rush of preparations and the emphasis on gift-giving and merrymaking all around us, we can still focus on the important aspect, the gift of God’s Son and the lasting joy of his presence.
So let’s rejoice during the Advent season! Let’s reach out to our Jewish friends who do not know their Messiah and who may be feeling somewhat alienated or uncomfortable during this Christmas season. This year may the true Christmas message be understood by many. May they see beyond the barriers and distractions of the season and seek Yeshua, the one whose coming we celebrate.