Happy Holidays: So Close, and Yet So Far

by The Rev. Rich Heinz 

Epcot ChoirThroughout the month of December, a beautiful Candlelight Processional  is held in the evening at EPCOT.  A large choir from various churches and schools sing various Christmas hymns.  Yes!  Not secular carols.  No “Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bells.”  The songs are about Jesus’ birth.

Selections from the Scriptures are also read, by guest celebrities.  The night my family and I saw it, Broadway star Chita Rivera was the reader.  What was spoken and sung was a beautiful witness to Jesus.  But what exactly did it witness?

As I pondered more closely what was read, I noticed tiny omissions that had great importance.  One reading concluded: “You shall call His name ‘Jesus.’”  Hmm…do you remember what follows in the Gospel?  He is the Son of the Most High.  He will save His people from their sins.

Yes, Jesus was THE reason for this event.  That was clear.  But why was Jesus being celebrated?  Was it simply that He was a great prophet?  That He taught love and mercy?  Where was the clear and simple statement that Jesus IS God Incarnate, the one and only Savior from sin?

You see, without the purpose of rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil, Jesus simply is reduced to another world religious leader.  And then “peace on earth” becomes reduced to a slogan that deals with politics and national relations, rather than the true and lasting peace of a restored relationship with our Father in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong.  It was a lovely sacred concert.  Nothing was wrong with what was spoken.  The failure was in what remained unspoken.

NativityIf there is no purpose in the birth of Jesus – no expressly stated delivery from sin and death, then His birth was in vain.  Jesus was born to save you from your sin!  And He has!  And He now delivers that release from sin with every baptism, absolution, preaching, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  These are part and parcel of the greatest Gift ever given – the Gift of the Newborn Savior in Bethlehem!

Without the rescue from sin, then this is not a unique and life-changing event, it is just another “holiday.”  “Happy Holidays!” is the greeting given by employees in most places, including most Disney “cast members.”  Only after a guest or customer says, “Merry Christmas!” can most people respond in kind.

Happy Holidays, indeed!  “Holiday” comes from shortening the English words “holy” and “day.”  Yes.  The Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25th through January 5th) are Holy Days for Christians.  But given most people’s lack of knowledge about this, we boldly proclaim, “Merry Christmas!”

God bless you richly as you celebrate more than the birth of a man who changed the world.  The Lord will bless you as you rejoice a great joy, celebrating the birth of the Only-begotten Son of God, our Savior Jesus, Christ, the LORD!

Happy Holy Days!  Merry Christmas!

The Rev. Rich Heinz is pastor of Saint John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, Indiana.  He and his family are avid Disney fanatics, and absolutely love Christmas.  They have just returned from a four-day trip to “the World.”

Created: December 23rd, 2008