Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 12, 2004


The danger of being exposed to the celebration of Christmas


      I heard an American say this week that he did not want his children exposed to the celebration of Christmas. Apparently there are more than a few of our fellow citizens who share this man’s sentiment.

          Some of them live in Denver, Colorado, where their influence caused radical changes in the annual Christmas Parade. From what I have heard, the parade rules this year forbid the use of the words, “Merry Christmas,” or any reference to Jesus Christ. The acceptable words, now being used more and more in the media, are “Happy Holidays.”

          One recognizes immediately the wisdom of this “happy” change. No one is likely to be offended by the innocuous words, “Happy Holidays.” The change also avoids the possibility that someone, hearing the words, “Merry Christmas,” might recall that Christ has something to do with Christmas.

          The secularists who are redesigning our culture are to be congratulated. They are doing a pretty good job of making Christians feel guilty about celebrating their faith. Freedom for the secularists evidently means that Christians must be restrained from calling attention to Christ.

          After a lifetime of exposure to the celebration of Christmas, I can understand why some people fear its influence. I must admit that it has certainly influenced my own thinking in radical ways.

          In my early years Santa Claus was more important to me than Christ. The idea of a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem was quaint, but it was not what I cherished about Christmas. Shepherds listening to angels and guarding sheep in a faraway land did not impress me. Gifts under a tree, and stories about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, got my attention.

          Gradually the fact that Christmas marked the birth of Jesus became more significant to me than Santa coming down the chimney. This change began with my discovery that Jesus was a real person while Santa was not.

          I learned that Jesus had indeed been born in the little town of Bethlehem, that he had grown to manhood in the humble home of Joseph and Mary, that he had preached about God for three years, that he had been crucified on a cross, and that his friends believed he had been resurrected from the dead.

          I wondered about that resurrection thing for many years. It hardly seemed possible. For a long time I figured it was simply a nice story that early Christians dreamed up to make people believe in Jesus. I read that many thought the resurrection was a myth. That seemed likely to me.

          Then in my late teens, strange things started happening to me. I began feeling that “someone” was convicting me of my sins and inviting me to become a new person. Once I had done that, I began having this gnawing “call” to become a preacher. I struggled with that for a long time, finally deciding to trust “whomever” it was that was calling me.

          Over the next 50-plus years I felt a strange “Presence” with me, even though I had the same problems and struggles that other people had. When our first son died, I felt that unseen “Person” with me. When I struggled with the temptations that are common to men, I felt this “Person” was helping me, guiding me, protecting me. There came a time when I seemed so blessed by this “Person’s” presence that I did not want to do anything, or go anywhere, unless “He” was with me.

          Frankly, I was not sure what name to give this “Person.” The easiest answer was that it was God, but I was not absolutely certain. I did know it was not Santa Claus. Then one day I decided it must be Jesus, so I chose to believe it was Him, the one the Bible said had been raised from the dead by the power of God.

          To be honest, this Person has been influencing me in remarkable ways. I don’t know how he does it, but he causes me sometimes to forgive people who have hurt me and what is really wild, to actually pray for my enemies.  

          Because of him, I even try to help other people by supporting rescue missions, orphanages, and other organizations. This is really strange because part of me wants to just take care of myself and my family and not get involved with people who need help. But this Person simply will not let me alone.

          I can understand why some people do not want their children exposed to this Person. He has a reputation for changing people, and not only that, he causes them to give their money away. He has influenced the building of more hospitals, schools, colleges, nursing homes, rescue missions, and children’s homes than any other person who ever lived.

          The celebration of Christmas does give this Person an unusual opportunity to influence people. Actually I have known hundreds of people who like me, kept on celebrating Christmas until they realized that the whole thing is more about Jesus than it is gifts and Christmas trees.

          A little boy told his granddaddy one day, “Grampa, I have found out about this Santa Claus thing, and I know he is not real. One day I am going to look into this Jesus business and find out if he is a fake too.”

          Grampa rubbed his chin, and then said quietly to his grandson, “My boy, you do that. You look into this Jesus business. But watch out. If you are not careful, he will get a hold of you just like he got hold of me.”

          I know what Grampa was talking about. Jesus got hold of me, and I have never been the same. I have never seen him, but I know he is real. He is more real than anyone I have ever known.

          So it may be wise for some folks not to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. That unseen Person may get hold of them and change their minds about a lot of things.

          I would just wish you Happy Holidays, and avoid controversy, but I know He would rather I simply say, Merry Christmas! + + + +