What if we stopped celebrating Christmas? I’d be a kilogram lighter and somewhat richer. I’d have fewer socks (I have enough already). There’d be space in the cupboard where Christmas decorations are kept, and I’d miss the multiple email updates from friends who only get in touch each December. Actually, I would miss those most.

Does Christmas Matter In A ‘Secular’ Society?

Does Christmas matter, and is it appropriate for a ‘secular’ society to put all their usual activity to one side so that the ever-smaller Christian population can have time out to celebrate the birth of Jesus? This matters when you remember that plenty of Christians don’t get excited about Christmas, complaining it is too commercialised, or that it is unlikely that December 25th was the day of Jesus’ birth. Or whatever it is they like to grouch about.

I spent many years as the principal of a theological college and remember a student flopping down in my office and complaining that he had to write an essay on John 1:14: ’And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ When I asked what the problem was, he replied that, ‘the idea had been done to death’.

We’ve heard the Christmas story so often that it no longer ignites our imagination or sparks us to generosity. Is that the problem?  We’ve got so used to the idea it no longer moves us?

What If Christmas Never Happened?

Perhaps we are looking at it the wrong way. What if Christmas had never happened? What if Jesus never came and we had a world minus Christianity?

That’s a confronting question. Christians have been at the forefront of so many social changes—like William Wilberforce and the struggle to help end slavery, or the early church’s work to end infanticide, or the promotion of the rights of women, education and healthcare for all, or the birth of the labour movement. The list goes on. Each was sparked by the conviction that all people are made in the image of God, and all are loved by God.

True, there has been a dark side to Christianity. There is nothing to celebrate about the Crusades, or the Inquisition. The close alliance between state and church in the colonial era was very unhealthy. Often the church has opposed much needed change.

Shifting Our Approach This (And All Coming) Christmases

Yet for all the mistakes, the great good that has come because of Jesus far (far) outweighs the shadows. Surely that should be celebrated?

So what if we shifted our approach? Too often Christmas is about self-indulgence, consumerism, false joviality and giving people things they really don’t need. That kind of Christmas is a betrayal of the Christ child born in a humble stable to poor parents living in a conquered country.

But Christmas can (and should) be about changing the world. Which it is, and it’s up to us as followers of Christ. If it’s consumerism, yes, let’s stop celebrating Christmas. If it’s about changing the world, count me in.