Extending Christmas


“Why did you give me that?” “I have this color!” “Take it back!!!”

It’s Christmas time. Every December, Christians and non-Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ—believers gather to show love to God and one another and people who have not yet accepted Jesus as Savior come to churches out of curiosity, the “remembrance of things past” or at the invitation of friends and family members who want to show them how much “God so loved the world.” This love is usually demonstrated with beautiful choruses thanking God for His Son, a ton of cookies and lots of adorable little children dressed in angel wings and bathrobes.

But too many Christians also celebrate with spectacular displays of unchristian consumerism. I once had a friend who was obsessed with buying her family elaborate gifts to put under the tree—bathrobes of the finest Egyptian cotton, gold and silver jewelry, the latest toys and gadgets advertised endlessly on television. But her family had learned to be ungrateful, maybe because Christmas for them was not much different from the rest of the year. Like Veggie Tales’ Madame Blueberry and her endless trips to StuffMart, my friend went shopping every single day. Christmas merely offered a better excuse. And when her children whined and complained and slandered the giver, she merely went out and bought them more.

Although the modern commercialization of the holiday didn’t begin until the nineteenth century, it has long been a tradition to give gifts at Christmas. The Magi (were there three? The Bible doesn’t say) are thought to have started it all with their gold, frankincense and myrrh, but long before the birth of Jesus, it was considered bad form in the Near East to arrive at a home empty handed. St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, is probably the most oft-depicted gift giver, immortalized forever as Father Christmas or jolly old St. Nick. The irony is that the good bishop tried hard to give his alms in secret and would probably be appalled at our modern way of gift giving.

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in most of the former British colonies (the United States being the biggest exception). Tradition has it that this day has been set aside since medieval times for boxing up gifts for service providers and the poor. It coincides with the feast day of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, whose assignment was to see that widows and orphans in the Jerusalem church had adequate care. Boxing Day allowed parishioners to follow the example of Stephen and extend Christmas for at least one more day to those who needed it.

No matter what individual families do for the holidays, this is the time for celebrating that Jesus came to earth to give us eternal life—the greatest gift of all. Christ’s gospel can never be returned or exchanged for something better—because there is nothing better to take its place: “salvation is found in no one else” (Acts 4:12). Pastor Tim Agnello’s testimony in our new interview format (“You Can Call Me AL,” p.10) reminds us that when all else—money, drugs or the pursuit of fame—fails, God is faithful through His Word to bring lasting change. John Chisham, an Alliance pastor in a small Minnesota community, journeyed to New York and took the gospel to the streets—quite literally—bringing Christmas in July to an international crowd (p. 14). And a church in Pennsylvania reaches across the miles to give gifts of love to strangers and friends alike, so that others might hear that God gave His only begotten Son and believe (p. 6).

Although many people reserve giving to Christmas time, His love should be extended to all throughout the year. It should never be too early or too late to share the good news that Jesus was born so that we might live. In the center of this issue of alife is a copy of the C&MA’s Ministry Highlights. The men and women you read about there are passing that gift along in North America, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe—yet no matter how many people receive it, it never gets tattered or in need of mending.

I think it’s one of the best Christmas issues we’ve ever done.

Melinda Smith Lane
Managing Editor

Past Alliance Life Issues


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