Frankly, I’m not altogether bothered by the fact that they have “taken Christ out of Christmas.” I don’t get uptight that Santa is more important than Jesus. It doesn’t bother me a whole lot that the politically correct crowd won’t sing Christmas carols in the public schools or they won’t let us put a manger scene in the town square.

Well, maybe some of those things bother me a bit.

%$#@%&%$!!!

There now, I feel better and can continue.

What really bothers me is that Christians are so spiritual they can’t enjoy the fun and celebration of Christmas…and don’t want anybody else to enjoy it either. I strongly suspect they once received underwear as a Christmas gift that was the wrong size…far too small. And instead of exchanging that underwear, they just keep on wearing it. But for whatever reason at Christmas these people are always angry about what the “world” has done to the celebration of the birth of Jesus and they simply can’t abide the “pagan” symbols that have become a part of what ought to be a Christian holy day.

Matthew 11 is an interesting text. Jesus was criticized a lot because, I guess, he wasn’t serious enough and liked to party. At that time, John was in prison about to die and wanted to make sure he wasn’t dying for a lost cause. John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Messiah. So John the Baptist’s disciples went to visit Jesus on behalf of John.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 11:16-19.

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Jesus said that the great and powerful emotions of pathos and party were inappropriate for those who were “really” religious.

I’ve been hanging out with Jesus and at Christmas I think I do that more than at other times. You just can’t get away from him. Jesus is everywhere. Even pagans can’t stop it. You go to the mall and in the middle of all the secular Christmas music, one that praises Jesus slips in. Everywhere we look there are signs that something wonderful has happened…Christmas trees, manger scenes in people’s front yards, church Christmas displays, and Christmas concerts, plays and presentations almost every night during the season.

As a Christmas outing the Key Life staff once went to Dolly Parton’s Jamboree (it used to be a large tourist attraction here in Orlando). Right there in the middle of the horses, the music and the…uh…manure, a manger scene dropped out of the ceiling of this gigantic auditorium. And there he was: JESUS. He’s everywhere.

During the Christmas season, I sing Christmas carols but more often of late, I’ve been singing the lyrics written by Ira and George Gershwin (at least one line) from the 1958 Fred Astaire movie Shall We Dance. (It was later recorded by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.) You remember the lyrics: “They can’t take that away from me. No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

I don’t know about you but I grow so tired of words. That’s what I do for a living and my words sometimes seem so empty and devoid of power. Add to that the “sellers of trinkets” who are always pushing products, the religious hucksters, and the God talk.

Then I remember that it isn’t just words. The Word became flesh. It happened. It is there for all to see. God entered his world of time and space, and loved us.

During Christmas I think about Jesus and the fact that God really came…really. The writer of Hebrews begins his magnificent book with these words:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…”

I can’t help but sing, “They can’t take that away from me. No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

He has come and nobody can ever take that away from you.

As a pastor I discovered that Christmas is a very depressing time for a whole lot of people. If someone is already depressed, afraid or lonely…that is only magnified at Christmas. There is a lot of joy, fake joy and real sadness at Christmas. I sometimes despair when I look at our world. Sometimes I wonder if anybody is in charge of this mess.

But listen to more from the anointed pen of the writer of Hebrews:

“…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

At Christmas I remember that no matter how dark it gets, he is still on the throne. This is his show. The end has already been written when Jesus comes the second time saying, in effect, “The first time I came as a baby and you hung me on a cross…but this time I’m coming with my angels. I will clean up the mess and reconcile all things to myself.”

“They can’t take that away from me. No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

And sometimes I despair of me.

I have a friend who in his eighties told me that he was ready to die because he just couldn’t stand himself anymore. But it’s not just my own sin…it’s everybody’s sin. It can give you depression that no dose of Zoloft can fix. Then I listen again to the words of the writer of Hebrews…

“After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

I’m forgiven, acceptable and valuable. If that doesn’t make you sing at Christmas, you just haven’t understood.

“They can’t take that away from me. No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

So this Christmas, go out and laugh, sing and celebrate. He has come and nobody can ever take that away from you.