Away in a Manger, or Alive in Your Heart?

There is no indication either in the Bible or in the pages of history that the first century church of Christ celebrated the birth of Jesus in any special way. It’s not surprising though that some in later generations decided to set aside a day to do so and that this celebration gained traction and popularity over the centuries. Commonwealth countries that still honor the British monarch have a public holiday called the King’s/Queen’s Birthday (its name changes depending on the one ruling). If these countries see fit to honor the birth of a monarch that has very little real power or authority, it stands to reason that some would see fit to honor the birth of the “King of kings” who not only has real authority but “all authority… in heaven and on earth” (1 Timothy 6:15; Matthew 28:18).  

The New Testament tells us how to “give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne,” our Lord and Savior Jesus, as it contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (Revelation 4:9; 2 Peter 1:3). The fact that a celebration of Jesus’ birth isn’t included in its pages reveals that such a celebration isn’t a part of God’s plan for our worshipful praise. The New Testament does say that some might choose to observe “one day above another,” but recommends that such observances be private, kept between oneself and God whenever there are differences of opinion over such days (Romans 14:5-6, 22). I can envision though a body of believers united in opinion where “with one mind and one mouth” people choose to focus on and celebrate the birth of Jesus, not through novel, unauthorized worship, but through singing, preaching, and prayer. If it could happen on June 25, there’s no reason it couldn’t happen on or around December 25.

Still, our God knows us, and again, in His wisdom, He didn’t create Christmas. In fact, He didn’t command us to elevate any day above another besides Sunday, the Lord’s day, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). Again, this isn’t because such an elevation is wrong as Romans 14 teaches. But could it be that God foresaw what happens year after year in the world today?

Around the world, there are some who honor and celebrate the birth of Jesus with great excitement and enthusiasm. “Jesus is the reason for the season!” they cry. “Glory to the newborn king!” they sing. But year after year, December comes to a close, and the Christmas decorations get packed up. Amidst the ornaments and decorations is a nativity scene with a small figurine that serves to represent Jesus as a baby. They sang, “Away in a manger,” before, but now the little manger where that figurine sat is put away, and with it, not just the representation of Jesus, but Jesus Himself. He won’t be thought of or revisited for weeks or even months to come. Again, “Let earth receive her king,” they sang, but for these people, Jesus will never be enthroned, at least not in life (Philippians 2:9-11).  

I am certain that not everyone who celebrates Christmas does so in the way I’ve described. I’m also convinced that Christmas is an incredibly personal matter, and each Christian ought to do with it what he or she feels is best. Allow me to make this appeal though: please don’t try to put Jesus away in a manger somewhere. Allow Him to grow up and become the perfect teacher, the mighty worker of miracles, the sinless Savior who triumphed over sin and death. See Him not as a helpless infant but as the “Mighty God” “who was and is and is to come” and who is now “a very present help in trouble” (Isaiah 9:6; Revelation 4:8; Psalm 46:1). Investigate His authoritative word, the New Testament. Live by it, and honor Him through it.

Don’t put Jesus away in a manger; let Him live inside your heart.  
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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