Why do we celebrate Christmas? What does it mean? Ask these questions and you’re sure to get a variety of answers. It’s a time to gather with family. It’s about giving gifts – or, for the more cynical, it’s an excuse for companies to sell us stuff. Maybe it’s just a paid day off work and a good party. Even in an increasingly secular America, despite the hustle and bustle of modern life, and in spite of the ever-growing commercialism of Christmas, the real reason for the season is and has always been the Lord Jesus.
The Real ‘Magic’ of Christmas
The “magic” of Christmas, or the “Christmas spirit,” if you will, isn’t a jolly fat man in a red robe, flying reindeer, or even presents under a tree. Matthew 1:18-20 reveals the true miracle of Christmas:
“(18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. (20) But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
Santa can be a fun idea – and we all love giving and getting gifts – but if the miraculous birth of the Savior is taught first, inventing something to make the holiday feel magical just isn’t necessary. Sadly, the percentage of American households that teach Jesus as the reason for the season has dropped steadily over the years. But there is still good news.
Despite Declining Numbers, Most Americans Still Believe in Jesus
As the Pew Research Center put it in a report on the changing US religious composition published in September of last year: “Only a few decades ago, a Christian identity was so common among Americans that it could almost be taken for granted.” Not so, today. About 90% of US adults identified as Christians as recently as the early ‘90s. As of the date of their report in September 2022, the number of Americans who believed in Jesus was down to 63%.
What has caused this loss of faith? Much of it seems to be generational. Gallup has tracked church membership since 1937, and the trend isn’t hard to see. Of those born before 1946(called by Gallup Traditionalists, though also commonly known as the Silent Generation or the Greatest Generation), 66% belong to a church. Only 58% of Baby Boomers are church members, however, and the rates continue to fall by generation, with 50% for Gen X and 36% for Millennials. But there’s more to it, as well. Even among these separate groups, membership is down. In 1998, 77% of Traditionalists, 67% of Baby Boomers, and 62% of Gen X belonged to a church. Millennials weren’t tracked until 2008 – and they saw the greatest drop, going from 51% to 36% in just a decade.
Perhaps work took up more time. Maybe addiction to screens and social media are to blame – or it could be that the busy adults just got too tired to keep it up. Whatever the reason, however, kids who don’t grow up in church often grow up in disbelief – and it has a cascading effect throughout the generations.
So even if you and your family don’t attend church – regularly or just on Christmas and Easter – find time amongst all the caroling, cocoa, and gifts to focus on Jesus. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died on a cross for the sins of the world to rise on the third day, conquering death and leaving sin in the grave for the redemption of the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)” Yes, he is the reason for the season – and he always will be. Merry Christmas!