Seemingly, at this time of year, we have a so-called war on Christmas waged by those who seek to expunge any symbol or reference of Christmas in popular culture. This is tragic to say the very least. It is a clash of cultures that brings unnecessary divisions among people in our society. It also perpetuates a Grinch-like spirit which distracts people from the true meaning of the season.
On another front, there is the abiding tendency for well-meaning Christians to romanticize or sentimentalize Christmas to the point that a clear and healthy Biblical view of the experience is not realized. By this, I mean we can easily call the “Pray to ‘Baby Jesus’ Syndrome.”
Indeed this is a time to reflect and remember that our Lord became flesh and dwelled among us. He did not come as a full-grown man but as a baby in Bethlehem. If we focus on this important aspect alone, we miss the total message of Christ.
As an example, I remember hearing about a character in a recent motion picture reported to be a comedy. The scene depicts the father figure at the table saying the blessing over the meal. In his “prayer,” he prayed to Baby Jesus. When asked afterward why he referred to Jesus as “Baby Jesus,” the father said, “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grownup Jesus, or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whoever you want.”
I am sure this brought some laughs from those watching this movie. The lead character is a well-known comedian, and he no doubt delivered his lines with the punch needed to accentuate his part in the movie. However, this scene might serve to illustrate the “Pray to Baby Jesus Syndrome.” The temptation is to not let Jesus grow up but remain the romanticized and domesticated Jesus in the crib.
The crib part of the message of Christmas is important, but it leads to the life and ministry of Jesus which ultimately brought on the cross. The death of Jesus on the cross should not be camouflaged by the crib of Christmas.
The cross is not a romanticized and sentimentalized version of baby Jesus. It is the heart of the Gospel message that flows from the Christmas story. Jesus came to give His life for the redemption of sinners. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. He is Immanuel! He is the Redeemer!
The crib and the cross are important Gospel images, but without the crown they can be left to our own domesticating tendencies. We can reduce Jesus to someone who was born into this world and became a martyr. Jesus is not a martyr. He is the Master! He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
When “The Passion of the Christ” was released back about eight years ago, I was so encouraged to see the final scene of that graphic motion movie. It was a depiction of Jesus coming forth from the grave. The sun was radiating in the face of actor Jim Caviezel as a faint, but noticeable smile came across His face. Jesus was alive!
We can grow weary from the war on Christmas. It is a tiresome and worrisome trend in our culture. We also can grow complacent concerning the message of Christmas by allowing ourselves to romanticize and sentimentalize The Christ of Christmas as “baby Jesus.” The healthy biblical view is to see Christmas as Jesus who was born in a crib, who died on the cross and now and forevermore wears the crown of crowns.