It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Christmas… It’s a word that can often bring on mixed emotions – depending on who you’re talking to or what company you’re in. In this special Christmas message, Nicole shares with us a recent encounter that challenged her as she realised how the true meaning of Christmas is lost for so many…
What does Christmas mean to you? Is it truly the most wonderful time of the year?

On Sunday, while serving on our Pastoral team at church, I was privileged to meet a lady who was on holiday in Cape Town all the way from Dallas, Texas. I spent most of my Sunday accompanying her around church and helping her feel part of our church family. There was some connection from the first word that was exchanged between us. Before the service began, we sat together over a cup of coffee and chatted about her travels and her views on South Africa. We also spoke about church life, and about being a Christian in different parts of the world. We sat together during the service, and after church we spent more time together chatting in our church café. Late into the afternoon, we continued to share stories and testimonies regarding God’s work in our lives. It was such a special time for both of us and we felt truly blessed and encouraged by our meeting.
However, when we were saying our goodbyes, she stumbled over her words a little.  As we hugged she wished me “happy holidays”, and then upon realising she was in a church building, promptly corrected herself and said: “Merry Christmas”. Then she corrected herself again and said: “Happy holidays”. She finally looked at me – a little perplexed and flustered – and said: “I’m so sorry. I get so confused on what is okay to say this time of year”.

While driving home my heart felt a little sad by the anxiety this final greeting had caused her. I felt sad about the secular world around us, which each year makes us feel as though it’s not okay to simply say: “Merry Christmas”. It’s as if these two little words have been re-worked to be offensive and inconsiderate. To top this little experience off, I got an email earlier this week which read: “It’s almost time for the big C… click here to learn how to wish your clients over the holiday season…”. My heart sank a little more… The big C? REALLY?!?
As I began to take note of Christmas advertising and catchy phrases, I suddenly started to see how much of Christ is truly being removed – not just from schools and workplaces but from a beautiful holiday like Christmas.

Christmas is renowned for being the time of year when our hearts become softer, and we give a little more to those who may not have much. It’s a time where somehow our patience goes a little further, and we tolerate annoyances with more ease. We tend to see more people smiling and being polite – overall Christmas is a true experience of joyfulness. So why are we so joyful at Christmas time? What is it about this time of year that brings out the goodness in almost everyone? I have come to believe, over my years as a Christian, that the ‘Christmas Cheer’ we all somehow experience is actually God’s Spirit dwelling inside of us, getting excited as we gear up to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ – as we gather and feast in honour of our Lord and Saviour’s birth! I mean, who doesn’t get excited about a birthday or special celebration?
So this is why my heart was so saddened about how we are being told to change something that has brought so much good into the world over many, many years.

I asked God about this during my quiet time over the last few days. He reminded me that WE – you and I – are HIS lights and that we are not called to fit into the boxes this secular world keeps creating! We are here for a time such as this, to be shining lights in our families, in our communities and in our spheres of influence. We are called to pearce the darkness that society is trying to paint over Christmas.

So let’s be encouraged while we are in the shops, at work do’s or attending Christmas functions, to shine brightly for our Father God who sent His precious Son to come and bring salvation for everyone. Let us boldly declare Whose we are by simply saying: “Merry Christmas” and “God bless you” to the people that we encounter. Let us keep Christ high and lifted up in all that we do this Christmas season – because after all, this is the most wonderful time of the year.