I read an article recently about Christmas customs around the world. Here some of the more bizarre ones: In the Ukraine it’s traditional to have a spiderweb as an ornament on your tree. In Germany, a Christmas pickle is supposed to be hidden on the tree, and the kid who finds it gets good luck. In Caracas, Venezuela, churchgoers are supposed to come to Christmas mass on roller skates. In Japan, a traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, if you celebrate Christmas in Japan, you need to make reservations at KFC because that’s where everyone wants to eat. A couple of the traditions can’t actually be shared from the pulpit. But for my money, the most bizarre custom comes from Austria, where December 6 is Krampus Night. Krampus is Santa’s evil twin whose job is to beat all the children who’ve misbehaved. On December 6th men dress up in some of the scariest devil-like costumes you can imagine and drunkenly run around towns hitting people with sticks and switches.You might find such traditions hilarious or offensive or somewhere in between, but keep this in mind: The Bible never tells us how to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In fact, the Bible never even says we SHOULD celebrate His birth. Whether you eat turkey or ham or grill steaks and baked potatoes, like a friend of mine does; whether you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, whether you watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” or you’re more of a “White Christmas” kind of guy, it’s up to you. I wouldn’t suggest getting drunk, dressing as the Devil and beating people with sticks unless you want to spend Christmas in a lovely cell with a charming gentleman named something like "Switchblade," but otherwise, the external trappings of how you celebrate Christmas are a matter of personal preference, in my opinion. But since the original purpose was to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, there should be a distinctly Christian way to observe this day. For centuries, many Christians have called this distinctive way Advent. The idea of Advent is that we celebrate Jesus’ birth by remembering what it was like before He came; feeling along with those long-ago people the anxious expectation of a Messiah, a Deliverer.
Although Jesus’ birth and life are in the New Testament, celebrating Advent means thinking from an Old Testament perspective. So what I’ve decided to do for my Advent series of sermons is to think about what Jesus came to be for us. In the Old Testament, God gave the people prophets, priests and kings to help them know Him, stay right with Him, and live the life He wanted for them. Those offices were fulfilled in Jesus. So this Sunday, we’ll talk about what it means for Jesus to be our prophet. On the 18th, we’ll see how Jesus is our priest. And on Christmas morning, we’ll examine what it means for Jesus to be our King. Christmas traditions are typically superficial things. But my goal and prayer is that this Christmas season, we would come to know Jesus in a new, more intimate and transforming way than ever before.