Don’t let your Christmas celebration be a mere shadow of the real thing: Christ Himself.


In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul warns the church at Colossae to keep the main thing the main thing. They were to be on guard against anything that distracted from the sufficiency of Christ. False teachers were leading them into things that claimed to offer the “inside track” to maturity: some special knowledge, something they must do or avoid doing, or some vision that held the answer. Things like dietary rules and severe treatment of the body were easy to identify, but some were more subtle, like celebrating certain festivals or a Sabbath day. These seem like things God desires, but Paul called all these things mere shadows of the real thing: Christ Himself.

Successful Service

In a previous article we saw how our focus on successful service can become a shadow, distracting us away from our devotion to Christ. We are to receive our joy from simply carrying out the wishes of our Master, Jesus, regardless of how things turn out. We’re really good at focusing on the shadows with our religious activity. We are convinced that the Christian life is all about what we do. When our efforts turn out the way we think they should, it feeds our flesh and assures us that we’re on the right track.

We do this with Christmas. We think that our efforts to keep Christ in Christmas will please our Savior. Surely He is pleased with our Christmas productions to which we invite our lost neighbors. Surely He enjoys the special music honoring His birth. Surely He enjoys the special fellowship and good wishes offered on and around this special day.


I have a different take on all this. Celebrating the day Christ was born is a prime example of focusing on the shadows at the expense of the real thing. I believe that our Christmas celebrations miss the point and fall short of the significance of the event being celebrated. God wants us to be living out the results of Christ’s life in us, the profound mystery that began on what we call the first Christmas.

His Life in Us

What good is there in celebrating the day Jesus was born, if we have failed to live out the abundant life He came to bring: His life in us? How can we celebrate His humble, lowly, and ignominious birth in an animal stall while we demand a comfortable auditorium that offers the best show in town? How can we feel so good when we bring lost people to our church’s Christmas pageant while we have failed to bring the transformational message of the gospel to them personally?

God hated Israel’s festivals because they had become mere shadows of the real thing. They made a tradition of celebrating them because they set Israel apart from the other nations. This made them feel special. They became focused on their traditions while ignoring the One to whom their festivals pointed.

Jews and Gentiles are drawn to the shadows for similar reasons. We think God appreciates our religious activity and celebrations. This Christmas, how about coming out of the shadows and asking Jesus how we can live every day in light of why He came instead of celebrating the day His earthly life began? How about letting Him live His life through us instead of constantly trying to impress Him with our devoted service?



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