How can the church confuse the Christmas message? Isn’t it the secular world with its emphasis on spending and consumption, on parties and secular images the one confusing the Christmas message?
In some ways the secular world no longer confuses the true meaning of Christmas. In the past it seemed that there was a sometimes uncomfortable mixture between the birth of Jesus and Santa—currently almost every trace of Jesus has been erased in secular presentations of Christmas. In the various programs on TV this year, it seemed like the overarching themes had to do with “family” (commendable, but important all year) and something frequently referred to as “christmas magic.”
The secular world is quite clear that it wants nothing to do with Jesus at Christmas. Sadly, confusion about Jesus is often found in the church. Here are an area we need to consider to make sure we aren’t confusing the Christmas message:
Our use of Christmas images
What can be wrong with that? The manger scene in front of the church or inside? Angels on the bulletins? All of the familiar and favorite images of shepherds and stars?
Please consider carefully that it is not the use of images that can cause confusion, but images without words that explain their meaning is what can be confusing. It is extraordinarily difficult for those of us who grew up in the church to imagine how someone who grew up completely without Christian teaching views the holidays.
A star? That is the logo for Macy’s for many people and is a reminder of “christmas magic.”
The manger scene? Maybe something about a myth or some religious history if they know the story at all, but why the birth of Jesus matters at all is most certainly not something most secular people are aware of.
Angels? Well, most everybody believes in angels today, so why were they anything special at Christmas?
Our challenge is to use words to EXPLAIN what we mean by our images.
If we don’t use words to do that, our images alone can either have a meaning we do not intend or they will not be effective in communicating the message we want to share.
For an excellent article by Gerry McGovern, web content expert, that shows how important words are (and how images are failing) in secular advertising, click here.
APPLICATION: Please explain Christmas
Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins, to fulfill the centuries of God’s promises, to give us a life of meaning and purpose now and eternal joy—it is a message too wonderful to be contained in human images or words—but we should do the best we can.
Please explain the meaning of Christmas and give people ways to explore the Christmas message at every Christmas event you hold. The handout free for everyone (with options for Effective Church Communication Members, click here for membership info) is one very useful tool, click here to go to the article. It has an explanation of Christmas and on the back side of the sheet links to places to explore the depths of the Christmas message.
It isn’t enough to give people nice feelings and pretty images, we must give them the complete story for the true meaning of Christmas to be shared in your church.