Keeping Christ in Christianity

by | Dec 1, 2023

Pastor John Dostal

Pastor John joined as lead Pastor at Concordia in Late 2021, relocating from Southern California. He nrings with him his wife Angela and two daughters.

Belonging: Part 1

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” - 1 Cor. 12:27 Membership in groups and organizations in the United States has declined precipitously in the last few decades. Fraternal organizations are only a shadow of what they used to be like....

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Jesus is the reason for the season.” “Keep Christ in Christmas.” These slogans are popping up all over the place this time of year. They are a reaction to a society which has turned this holiday into a celebration of materialism without a savior.

I understand this reaction. Secularism isn’t just encroaching; it’s overtaking former Christian celebrations. Due to this encroachment, many in the church are “pushing back” against overtaking efforts. They are taking a stand against the secularization of Christmas.

While I mourn the secularizing of Christmas, I believe that the church is unaware of something as they are pushing back against society. The outward focus and blame for society’s ills have taken our eyes off of what is central to our preaching and teaching. Years of fear of what is happening on the front has left our rears exposed (no pun intended). 

In other words, what is being taught, confessed and preached in the church?

There are a few possibilities. One is an emphasis on doing good works to serve the community. In churches like this, there isn’t much of an emphasis on sin, guilt, death and resurrection. In fact, the Bible may be more like window dressing for the activity that serves as the core of these churches.

In such a system, Jesus Christ is an example of doing works of mercy. He is portrayed as an example of social activism for church members to follow.

Another emphasis in other churches is personal morality. Christianity is reduced to a code of ethics to be observed and obeyed. In this system, Jesus is reduced to a moral example to follow. Jesus becomes a new ten commandments. “What would Jesus do?” became the slogan for this movement back in the 90’s. Never mind that he ate with prostitutes and ‘sinners,’ walked on water and raised the dead.

These are reactions to the secularizing influence of society. With the erosion of the nuclear family and the rise of reckless individualism, the examples and ethical codes create a framework that is predictable. Security is found in them.

Those ways of living are to be admired if not emulated in this Christmas season (and beyond!).

But I can’t help wondering, what happened to the Church’s ancient confession? What happened to teaching and preaching Christ? What happened to Paul’s words, “We preach Christ crucified?” (1 Cor. 1:23). 

Somehow, the centrality of Jesus Christ and all He has done has been sidelined for other emphases.

So now, I cry out a new slogan: “Keep Christ in Christianity!” Preach the cross of Christ. Recite the ancient creeds. Absolve people of sins in His name. Feed the flock the body and blood of their Savior. Sing praise to Him. Read the Word aloud. Recite the Prayer the Lord gave to us. Make Him central in all that we do.

Yet, we don’t always keep Him central. We sometimes sideline Jesus for our own desires. We set Him aside in favor of doing what feels good. We are tempted to make ourselves central. This is sin.

Or we turn Him and scripture into an ethical system to follow. We reduce our savior to tablets of the Law. This, too, is sin.

And our sin is exactly why the Son of God came into the world. He came to rescued you from … you. He came and rescued you from all the ways we have failed to Keep Christ in Christmas, in church, and in everyday life. He came to save you from your sins.

To save the peerlessly ethical who have believed in their goodness. To save the socially active who have put their faith in their works. To save the self-serving who live for themselves every day but Sunday morning. Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

He came to save you, dear friend. He was born for you. He lived for you. He was tempted for you. He was crucified for you. He was wounded and punished for you. Jesus Christ died for you. He was raised for you, too. 

In point of fact, Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the reason for all the seasons of your life. Even the seasons when we have sidelined Him. Even for the times when we have flat out rejected Him in favor of other things.

Because Jesus cannot disown His own. He is faithful even when we aren’t. Keep Christ in Christmas? That’s a good sentiment. The better one is that Christ keeps you in Him. You are in the palm of His saving hands. He will never let you go. He has kept you and will keep you to and through the end. Christ is Christmas. And you are in Him. Both now and ever more.