An editorial appeared last year in the Guardian with a question that I think is still relevant to this Christmas season. This was the headline:

Is 2008 the year the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ debate resonates?

The article concluded with this line: While the government hopes festive spending will help deliver us out of economic gloom, the church is hoping the credit crunch will deliver us from the commercialisation into the arms of God. Who’s your money on?

Personally, my money’s on God, and my next few posts will comprise my humble attempt to advance his cause and try to help us as Christians to step back for a minute and think about the real meaning of Christmas, apart from what the toy industry, retail industry, shopping mall industry, greeting card industry, movie industry, and Santa suit industry would like to perpetuate.

When I think about what Christmas has become, apart from the pressure to shop and the inescapable secular holiday music played 24/7 on at least 2 local radio stations, I think of a couple of scenes from the movie “Love, Actually” which, by the way, men, is not so bad: my wife had to drag me to watch it the first time, but I found that it has a lot to say about Christmas.

One of my favorite examples is a scene about the school Christmas pageant: the child comes home from school excited to tell his mother that he has been given his part for the play, and do you know what he is to be? A lobster! And not just any lobster, he tells his mother excitedly “I’m to be the lead lobster”, to which his mother replies, “I wasn’t aware that there were lobsters present at the birth of Jesus.”

Later in the movie, on Christmas Eve, the Prime Minister goes to call on the young woman from his office that he has fallen in love with, and he catches her whole family on the way out the door to the same Christmas pageant. Do you know what the girl’s brother is dressed as? An octopus. Apparently you need one to go with the lobsters.

And so I wasn’t surprised when I came across the following excerpt from an article in the Telegraph: It may have become traditional for angels, three wise men and the baby Jesus to play a starring role in the festive season. But now Hindu snowmen, a Chinese dragon and a Jewish temple are also to be included in an attempt to make the celebrations more inclusive of Britain’s diverse communities.

Now I know all of these examples are from Britain, but the same changes are happening here in America. The Brits just seem to be a bit more vocal about it than we are.

So, what in the world is going on? As if the name of the holiday doesn’t give it away, the day is called “Christ’s Mass” after all. It’s a Christian holiday for Christians. And as Christians, we’ve got to take it and its meaning back. So we have to answer the question, what is the meaning of Christmas? Over the next few weeks I’m going to to post a series of articles that explore the answers to this pivotal question from the viewpoint of what the Bible has to say about what Christmas means and why it matters. But for starters, I have a video that I think introduces the subject well:

That’s Christmas! from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.