Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
December 23, 2012
Reflections on a few of the important words of Christmas
Words are important. Daily we use words to wound or bless people. Effective communication demands the proper use of words. Auburn Journalism Professor Ed Williams constantly reminds his students to “omit needless words” because “vigorous writing is concise.”
In speech and in writing Williams frowns on using “big” words. Small words, big ideas and short sentences are the best tools to get your ideas across. This is good advice especially for preachers. Congregants are seldom impressed by the 25-cent words clergy are prone to use as a display of their great wisdom.
My concern today, however, is not so much with the use of words in speaking or writing but with some of the significant words that the Christmas season conjures up. So allow me to offer brief reflections on a few of these choice words.
“Clearance” is a prominent Christmas word. I like it. My wife loves it. She prides herself on never buying anything that is not offered on a “clearance sale” rack. I cheer her on in this buying habit because it saves us money for more important things – like buying goats for a poor family in Africa.
“Santa” is a Christmas word, used almost entirely in November and December. Santa is linked closely with another popular word – the word “gift.” We talk about Santa bringing gifts to create anticipation and that is not all bad, especially for the children. While we all know Santa is a myth I see no “evil” in our attraction to the jolly old fellow.
Christians call December the “Advent Season.” The word “advent” refers to the coming of Christ into the world. Adherents of the Christian faith believe that is what Christmas is all about – the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately that idea is overshadowed by the commercialization of Christmas. But that gives preachers an important talking point during the season.
“Holy” is a Christmas word. For Christians December is the “holy” season when the focus is on the miraculous birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Some of our favorite songs employ the word holy. In fact Christmas is never real for me until I hear someone sing “O Holy Night.” It is surely one of the greatest songs ever composed – and it majestically sums up for us the “reason for the season.”
My favorite Christmas word is “Emmanuel.” It is the marvelous name given to Jesus and it means, “God with us.” We find it in the prophecy of Isaiah that a virgin would give birth to a son and call him Emmanuel. Then the New Testament affirms that the Virgin Mary’s son born in a Bethlehem manger is indeed the long expected Messiah, Emmanuel.
I like Emmanuel because it teaches us the most important thing about God – that he loves us and chooses to be “with” us in all the various circumstances of life, the bitter, the sweet, the good and the bad. This Christmas pause long enough to give thanks for a God who loves you and is willing to be with you to help you make sense out of life and give you grace to handle the hardships you face.
Then, thankful for a God like that, say a few kind words to someone who’s Christmas will be better because of your kindness. Words make a powerful difference. Use them wisely. Merry Christmas! + + +