Living up to “Christian” This Christmas

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Jordan Chamblee | The Stand

When my wife and I named our first baby, we drew from a well of various family names. We limited ourselves to family names not just because we liked the way they sounded, but also because they had a deeper significance and meaning to us. Some names sound strong, some sound pretty, some sound old-fashioned, and others sound biblical. Parents tend to choose names that fit the person they want their child to grow up to be.

This proves equally true for groups, including the early church. One name they called themselves was “the followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2), summarizing their core identity as disciples of the one true path to God in Jesus Christ. But another name ultimately stuck: Christians. “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). This label defined them by their adherence to Christ.

Throughout history, groups within the faith adopted names highlighting distinctive attributes. The Puritans aimed to purify the church of corruption. The Separatists, instead of reforming from within, separated entirely from what they considered an irredeemable institution. In America, we remember Separatists as the Pilgrims, underscoring how they journeyed to a foreign land to practice their faith unhindered.

The Methodists earned their name early on for their methodical approach to biblical disciplines. Baptists insisted that only believers should get baptized rather than infants. Regardless of the name or its origin story, an underlying meaning and set of assumptions lay attached.

Tragically, over time the name “Christian” has largely lost its meaning. Now qualifiers like “cultural Christian,” “born-again Christian,” “progressive Christian,” and “practicing Christian” attempt to clarify the definition. The occasional fringe group even co-opts the name “Christian” to advance twisted agendas contrary to Christ’s actual life and doctrine, breeding further confusion. The only accurate test of one’s Christianity remains in examining how one lives.

What is Your Name?

So, what name would an outsider assign your worldview based on observing your life’s patterns? What assumptions about your beliefs might materialize? Do your behaviors align with what you profess every Sunday at church? Or does a disconnect exist, hinting at hypocrisy or misaligned priorities between your stated creed and actual conduct? Essentially, does your personal brand match Christianity’s?

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As we enter another Christmas season and prepare for visits from unbelieving friends and family, what image of our faith will they leave with based on firsthand observation of our celebration? What overall impression of Christianity will interactions with us create in their mind and heart? Will they view genuine followers of Jesus as materialistic, hollow, hypocritical, and shallow? Or might they conclude that lives claimed by Christ possess substantive meaning, moral integrity, and selfless character?

In many ways, the traditional trimmings of Christmas can set us up for such skepticism. Unbelievers expect the frenzy and stress when they visit our homes during December. Feverously heaping piles of gifts feed notions that Christians crave materialism as much as any culture-swept consumer. Sweating over mile-long baking, cooking, decorating, and to-do lists suggests believers, too, surrender constantly to exhaustion and anxiety. We mouth exhortations about goodwill toward mankind while wrestling over politics and grievances with the same unrestrained venom as anyone.

Assessing Ourselves

Yet precisely here lies the opportunity to confront these assumptions. We can showcase patience amid chaos, not because we grit our teeth but rather because God’s perfect love reverberates in our hearts, casting out fear and anxiety. We can refuse obsession over hollow materialism this year not through sheer grit but by fixing our eyes on the true Gift given for us that first Christmas morning. Kindness, care, understanding, and compassion can flow readily from us these next few weeks not because custom demands polite family banter but rather because Christ’s Spirit fills and fuels us afresh day after day.

In other words, we have a chance to live out our Christianity authentically instead of merely stating claims about it. To do so requires evaluating our actions this season through the lens of outsiders peering inside. And where we spot disparity between what we say versus what we do, adjustment is required since actions always outweigh words as the true test of what someone believes at their core.

This certainly makes the Christmas gathering more complicated. It means examining every conversation topic we allow through filters like, “Does this reinforce shallow stereotypes an unbeliever might already harbor about Christians?” It means assessing activities and discussion topics based on what they highlight about our values, priorities, and beliefs. It means retraining reflex reactions to annoying relatives to default, less on anger or argument and more on understanding them as souls in need of a Savior, not opponents in need of conquering by superior facts or zingers. And considering even simple logistic hosting decisions like meal options and schedules through the filter of how these impact our ability to meaningfully connect with these divine appointments specially placed before us this holiday season.

A Special Opportunity at Christmas

We certainly do not want to limit this to one season a year. Unbelieving friends and family members likely only remember what they witness when it is consistently modeled, not what briefly gushes forth once annually.

At the same time, something about Christmas specifically spotlights values and beliefs like no other holiday on our calendar. So, while authentic Christianity never confines itself to December, opportunities during this season uniquely capture the observer’s attention. Imagery and symbolism point explicitly to the gospel. Carols magnifying Christ’s nature, character, and work, strike receptive chords in people’s souls this time of year. And substantiating hopes like “good will toward men” or “peace on earth” with strategic conversations about the Prince of Peace strikes while the iron of human longing glows hot.

Bottom line, Christmas provides occasional Christian acquaintances an annual glimpse inside the meaning, motivation, and priorities marking our entire existence. For some unbelieving observers, brief holiday exposure to siblings or friends may comprise their only firsthand brush with genuine Christianity. What we vocalize, prioritize, and value during this season frames their perception of faith, likely determining whether they ever look closer or turn away forever.

So, with Christmas on the horizon, let’s accept the holy calling to become image-bearers showcasing through word and deed what rooted-down discipleship means. As we rub elbows with the watching world this December, may the resonance of Christ within us inspire unbelievers to hunger more for the joy, purpose, community, grace, and real fulfillment flowing from our Savior into every crack and crevice of our daily lives. And within family chaos ripe for miscommunication may the message of Christ trump all else, steering conversations ever back to the common ground we all share: that two millennia ago Light pierced the darkness to reconcile humanity once and for all to the God of all comfort, restoration, justice, and peace.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

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The Stand
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