Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 12/12/2004
I suppose the place to begin this message is to define humbug. According to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary humbug is something designed to deceive or mislead. Therefore, the title of my message could be Holiday Deception. The natural question is what I mean by the title Holiday Humbug. I will explain by giving you some illustrations.
The Holiday Season
Each Thursday I drive to downtown Milwaukee, park in the Federal Building parking lot and, after going through the airport style security station, I take the elevator to my office and begin my duties as a military chaplain. At lunchtime, I walk through the skywalk that connects the Federal Building to the Grand Avenue Mall and pick up a bite to eat. On my way to food court there is a brightly colored "holiday" display, which includes a choir of nearly life sized bears standing up like people! This past Thursday there was a group of school children standing there and the bears were singing a "holiday" song. Friends, that’s a holiday humbug, a holiday hoax. Why, because, every body knows that the KEY holiday that is celebrated at this time of year is NOT Hanukkah, NOT Kwanzaa and not Winter Solstice. It is the birth of Jesus Christ – Christmas. Now, I must tell you that no one knows for sure when Jesus Christ was born, but this is a time we are compelled to think on the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I heard the "holiday bears" singing a secular holiday song, I thought, what a hollow, hopeless humbug. How much better it would have been if the children could have been at the Mayfair Mall Bookstore where a group of man and women were singing Christmas hymns like the 1700’s hymn – Angels We Have Heard On High (179).
Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the
The song is based on Luke 2:1-14. This is not a holiday song, it is a blessed Christmas song. There’s no humbug (deception) in this song. It is a wonderful Christmas song proclaiming the truth of the birth of Christ. You see, I do not celebrate the holiday season! A clerk, who meant no harm, and who was likely instructed to wish shoppers "happy holidays," closed the transaction with me by saying, "I hope you have a happy holiday season." With a smile, I suggest we respond with "I celebrate the birth of Christ, may you have a blessed Christmas." Indeed, Jesus is the reason for the season.
Last year U.S. District Court Judge Charles Sifton ruled against the plaintiffs in the discrimination suit against the New York City Department of Education's policy regarding "Holiday Displays." The policy allows the Jewish Menorah and Islamic Star and Crescent while banning the Christian Nativity scene. Sifton ruled that the policy is not unconstitutional and does not discriminate against Christians. In his decision, he wrote that the policy is secular in intent - the Menorah and star and crescent have a secular dimension while the nativity scene is "purely religious." Then, for the second year in a row a city in Florida has banned the display of a privately funded Nativity scene. In October, Sandara Snowden again made her request to display Nativity scenes alongside the Menorahs and again was denied. Her attorney said, "As we approach Christmas, we are once again confronted with a town that believes it is legally acceptable to discriminate against Christian religious symbols celebrating this holy season. This is one of the most outrageous examples of such discrimination."
Little has changed since the days of the Apostles! The political establishment and the politically correct crowd raised their heel against this holy child Jesus. Turn with me to Acts 4. The political leaders threatened Peter and John and told them that they could not talk publicly about Jesus. Se read in verses 24-27 "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together."
The culture of the Apostles day, not unlike our own, was determined curtail the public declaration of Jesus Christ and His message. However, even though they had been beaten and jailed for teaching about Jesus Peter and the other disciples responded, "We ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29
I say once again that Christmas without Christ is a holiday humbug. It is a celebration that is designed to deceive and mislead the unsaved crowd. Our focus must be the incarnation, God becoming flesh and dwelling with us. Turn to Matthew 1:18-25 "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 privily. 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. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."
Turn with me in your hymnal to the wonderful Christmas Hymn by Charles Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (181). Look at the words of in verse 2 –
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
My brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t let the birth of Christ and His Incarnation become merely another holiday. It is one of the two most important days (Resurrection of Christ is the other one).
Let us never forget who Jesus Christ really is. Isaiah 9:6-7 says "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."
I am reminded of the words of O Holy Night! (183).
"Oh day of joy, when in eternal splendor He shall return in His glory to reign, When ev’ry tougue due praise to Him shall render, His pow’r and might to all nations proclaim! A thrill of hope our longing hearts rejoices, for soon shall dawn that glad eternal morn: Fall on your knees! With joy lift up your voices! O night divine – O night when Christ was born! O night divine – O night, O night divine.
No "happy holidays" from me! However, I do wish you and yours a very joyous Christ centered Christmas.