The first widespread usage of the greeting Merry Christmas apparently began in 1843 with the publishing of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Not surprisingly, the greeting first appeared on Christmas cards that same year. The idea behind this phrase is that Christmas should be a happy, joyous time. So when you wish someone a Merry Christmas, you are, in fact, offering a blessing to them for a merry or happy occasion.
For Christians, this is where it gets interesting. The annual celebration of Christ’s birth is not directly commanded in Scripture. However, there is a compelling reason to celebrate the Advent.
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There is no activity that is more appropriate than engaging in the praise of Christ and his earthly mission which began with his advent. Why? Because this praise dominates heaven. So, celebrating the birth of Christ really is a wonderfully appropriate activity. This is what led to the praise of the angels in Luke. In Luke 2 the sky erupts with the praise of angels:
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””
Then, in Revelation 5:11-14, we again read of the angels proclaiming the praises our Savior:
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!””
Why is the Lamb worthy to receive praise? Because he completed the mission his Father entrusted to his care. The angels proclaimed his praise at his birth and that praise continues on in heaven and will continue throughout eternity.
The Holy Spirit has made it a point to show God’s people that heaven is all about the praise of Christ and his successful completion of the mission that began with his Advent. In the few glimpses of heaven that we do have in the New Testament this one reality is strikingly clear. Heaven is focused on praising the worthiness of Jesus Christ and his Advent mission.
While it is not wise to limit the praise of Christ’s Advent to one particular day, neither is it wrong to select a day for particular focus to join with the angel’s praise. All of the days belong to our God and not to man. We are free to use any or all of them for his glory.
When you say “Merry Christmas” to someone, look for a way to speak of the real reason for joy, the real reason for being merry. You will not be able to give this gospel news to everyone you speak to, but there will be opportunities to do so if you are looking for them. Why should Christmas be merry? Why should the world be joyful? Because Christ has come to earth to save people from their sins. Talk to your children about this, about the real reason Christmas is merry. Make Christmas a time when we truly proclaim joy to a lost world. As the carol proclaims – Joy to the world, the Lord has come!