“Has Christmas Become Generic?”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – December 24, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church


"Has Christmas Become Generic?"

Meditation Delivered by Rev. Dick Stetler

Centenary United Methodist Church

December 24, 2017


Christmas Eve


    While we were in the States, our family was seated in a restaurant waiting for our food to arrive. During that time, I noticed that one of the waitresses recognized a group of four women that were seated not far from us. She went over to them and said enthusiastically, "How are you guys doing? Long time, no see."  They engaged in lively conversation.

    What intrigued me was how the word "guys" has become generic.  Since then, I have heard other women greeting their female friends as guys.  Guys has become a generic designation that enjoys a widespread usage among both sexes. 

    An idea came to me that perhaps the season of Christmas has also become a generic adjective to describe every manner of celebration under the sun. I began looking around at everything from television advertisements to decorations that are featured in many of our department stores. 

    There was a time when we occasionally heard people say that, Jesus is reason for the season. Outside of churches, that saying is seldom heard anymore.  Do we remember the days when everyone said to each other, Merry Christmas instead of, Happy Holidays.  Interestingly enough, Merry Christmas is coming back into vogue but what are those two words communicating?  

    While watching Fox Business News last week, there was a scene that featured the entire staff wearing Christmas sweatshirts.  I deliberately went online to see if I could find that scene.  I was successful.  There stood 21 staff that were on Maria Bartiromo's morning show.  I enlarged each sweatshirt to learn what each was communicating.

    Listen to various scenes pictured on those sweatshirts and see if you can connect the dots to the birth of Jesus.   1) "Christmas Is Here" featuring a wintry scene, 2) The face of President Obama with the words, "Miss Me Yet," 3) "When You Miss, You Drink," 4) A picture of Santa with these words, "Ask Your Mom if I'm real," 5) A black Santa with the words, "Just believe." 

    There were sixteen other sweatshirts with Elves, Reindeer, Snowmen, Christmas stockings, candy canes, holly, Christmas trees, decorative wreaths, and various drinking glasses filled with holiday cheer.  The theme of Jesus' birth was nowhere to be found.  There was not even a hint that Jesus had anything to do with Christmas. 

    We are living in a new world.  In pluralistic societies where everyone's feelings are so easily offended these days, Christmas has become like the word guys. It has become generic, and today our Jesus is the reason for the season has become an occasion for all kinds of observances and traditions.

    Should this state-of-affairs regarding Jesus' birthday bother us? Why should we allow anything that is believed or sanctioned in society become a source of our unhappiness?

    For those of us who understand what happened in the Biblical narrative and are clear on its impact on our lives, we are a lot like the farmer who made a discovery while plowing his field. The story that I am referencing appears in the multi-volume set of Arabian Nights.

    The farmer was plowing a field when his plow became caught on something.  Knowing that his field had no underground obstructions, the farmer became curious.  He dug around one of the plow's tines and discovered it was caught on a large ring.  When he lifted the ring, it was attached to a flat slab of stone.  Lifting it higher, it revealed the hidden entrance to a chamber that was filled with an enormous treasure of gold, silver and precious jewels.  

     Jesus taught that everything that we need to radiate our creativity is like that farmer's discovery.  It is buried inside of us.  This is where our one-of-a-kind treasures are. No God of love would ever leave his creations in a world without supplying a way to live in it so that we limited human beings could create, love, support, achieve and excel as we serve others in what we do.

    The Apostle Paul once wrote quite plainly about his understanding of Jesus' reason for coming into our world:

Jesus had the same spirit of God within him, but he never tried to be an equal with God. Instead of his own free will, he gave up everything that he had enjoyed and took on the nature of a servant.  He became a human being." (Philippians 2:6f)


It does not matter that other people celebrate Christmas differently.  When we are on the path to being enthusiastically alive, we are no strangers to the four qualities that we celebrated with the lighting of each of our Advent Candles: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

    Most people have been trained to look for their fortunes and identity in the external world. Most put on their masks created by their secular training and take themselves quite seriously with their PhDs, stethoscopes around their necks, clerical collars, wigs and robes, expensive cars, and six figure salaries like their brothers and sisters have before them.

    During his ministry, Jesus knew that his message would fall on deaf ears and he said so.  He taught his listeners, "The gate to living creative, loving lives is narrow and the way that leads to it is difficult and there are very few people who will ever find it." (Matthew 7:14) This should give everyone pause to think about their lifestyle.   What are we doing here? Where do we think we are going when we make the choices that we do?

     One of the most difficult teachings for Christians to grasp is that God never has to judge any of us.  Our pastors and church leaders have taught us otherwise. Why is this true?  We do a very thorough job of making such judgments all by our selves.

    God has no need to judge us.  We are the ones who are testing our spiritual musculature while here.  If God ever made a judgment that was unloving, God would be revealing a nature other than the one that Jesus taught.  (Matthew 18:21) God is not and cannot ever be offended any more than parents are bothered when infants soil their diapers.  Why?  They have not yet learned or matured enough to behave otherwise. The same is true with our level of spiritual awareness.

    God loves us no matter which level of spiritual awareness we find ourselves.  If Jesus were with us tonight and engaged in a conversation of what has happened to our precious Christmas celebration, I firmly believe that he would say something like this:

The meaning of Christmas is whatever people want it to be. Everyone has forever to grow in their spiritual maturity. Each of you will mature in spirit when you are able to do so as your understanding grows.


You are not to worry and become anxious about the state of your spirit as many of your religious leaders have taught you.  The result of your choices will determine the quality of your lives. No one else is in charge of your growth and no one is forcing you to be as you are.  If you wish to change, you have the present moment to do so.  


You bring out all the symbols of Christmas like centuries-old Biblical narratives, traditions, rituals, family gatherings and celebrations. Then you put them away for another year.  Are you any different from the merchants? What happened thousands of years ago really does not matter. What matters is what my presence and teachings are doing for you today. 


I voluntarily came among you to be a guide, a compass or a road map so that you will understand what life is like after you leave your physical forms.  There are enough of my authentic teachings in the Gospels for you to know the attitudes that will work in your world as well as mine.  Each of you is responsible for the quality of your own lives and no one else's.  There is no need to blame anyone for your present responses to life.


Remember that your spirit will always reflect what you value. The material world that you enjoy is only a temporary laboratory in which you may experiment with your creativity. None of what you experience in that laboratory matters or exists when you exit your temporary forms.  Learn to develop attitudes that will serve you and others in your world and you will find that such attitudes will serve you in my world.


Always remember that I love all of you more than you can possibly know.  You are all safe in my love.  You have nothing of which to be afraid.  Have fun my brothers and sisters. Have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow as you celebrate my birthday any way you want to.


Christmas is a lot of fun for everyone but remember that you will have 364 days to celebrate your gift of life in your New Year.  Allow the loving, generous attitudes within you to show up in every one of those days. Tell and show the world about what your inner world is guiding you to become.  Not everyone will care or understand how you are communicating what you do.  That is perfectly fine.  Remember do not judge.  Clearly all of you are not on the same level of spiritual awareness. Yet, you expect that everyone shares your values. God does not judge and when you do you tarnish your halo announcing that you still have more growth to attain. Do not worry, my disciples did the same thing and they turned out just fine. Be at peace and know that your Creator is in charge of your destiny, not you.   



Eternal God, who of us can enter our worship experience knowing that we feel and experience being whole and complete?  Not many.  We come tonight knowing that each of us sits in a pew that holds others just like us.  Together we are like a sea of people who are often preoccupied by issues of life that we are convinced no one else has.  And while the title we give to our concerns may change, we realize that everyone of us knows uncertainty.   We know what it is like to be afraid.  We know what it is like to make poor judgments.  Yet, we also know what it feels like to be loved by you. 

Tonight, we are united in the celebration of our faith.  There are few other gatherings like a church family that stands on its hope and stares adversity and vulnerability in the face and declares, "There is nothing here that God and we cannot handle together."  

You, O God, have come into our midst and declared for all eternity that we are loved and there is nothing powerful enough, not even our beliefs, our mistakes or our choices, that will change that.  Tonight, bless us with that sense of community as well as the profound sense of Your presence.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .