Have Yourself a Kerygmatic Christmas
By Jen Moser, Office of Evangelization and Catechesis
One of my most vivid childhood memories of Christmas was searching the night sky for the Star of Bethlehem. As my family and I piled into the car to drive into town for Christmas Eve Mass, I purposely tried to position myself near the window so I could look for the brightest star in the eastern sky. I imagined the wise men traveling to see Jesus, and something of their hope and expectation resonated deeply within my heart. Even as a small child, I instinctively knew the need for something more, something that gave purpose and meaning to everyday life.
We can see this longing for meaning, purpose, and hope in the secular celebration of Christmas. From the music to the commercials to the parties and all of the time and energy that goes into finding the perfect gift, it’s easy for it all to become a means of escape from the difficulties and pain of living in the “real world.” Even the time we spend with our families and friends can serve to distract us from the deeper thoughts, feelings, and desires in our hearts. And ultimately, all of this longing for hope points us to a deeper need – the need for salvation.
Even if we firmly believe that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and we do all we can to “keep Christ in Christmas,” we can no longer assume that those around us comprehend what we mean by these sayings. Christmas is unintelligible apart from “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say. If the celebration of the birth of Christ seems irrelevant to the world – and even to our closest family and friends – it must be because we have lost the why, and even more importantly, the who behind the what.
Why does Christmas matter? Because God’s love is not a vague, abstract idea. Rather, it is a uniquely personal reality that each one of us are created to live in and invited to receive. However, we are alienated from God, separated from him and others by our sin. This is ultimately the source of all our pain and suffering, both in our experiences in the world and within our hearts. Christmas matters because we cannot save ourselves. Distraction, material comfort, and self-medication only work so long before we come face-to-face with our need. It is ultimately a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, putting our hope and trust entirely in his ability to save us, that releases the power of God’s love concretely into our pain and suffering. Emmanuel, God with us in and through Jesus, matters not just so we know we are loved, but so we can experience that love through the greatest form of deliverance: salvation from our sins.
This is the very heart of the Christian faith – the core gospel message. The New Testament uses the Greek word “kerygma” (pronounced “ker-ig-muh,” meaning “proclamation”) to describe this message, which is a summary of the gospel proclaimed by the apostles, those who encountered Jesus personally and witnessed the events of salvation with their own eyes. Though there are many different ways to summarize the kerygma, we can use 4 R’s to remember these key points:
1. God loves us and made us for relationship with him & others. (John 3:16)
2. Sin ruins our relationships & isolates us now and for eternity. (Romans 6:23)
3. Jesus restores our relationship with God by his death and resurrection. (Romans 5:8)
4. Our response to accept Jesus opens us to life eternal. (Rev. 3:20)
As Christmas approaches, I encourage you to consider how your celebration might be more “kerygmatic” than “commercial.” Here are a few questions based on the 4 R’s to aid your reflection:
• Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to be the center of your life? Would you like to? How is he inviting you right now to put your trust even more deeply in him?
• Where in your life are you in need of salvation? Have you asked Jesus to experience his salvation in your areas of need, especially your sin?
• Who in your life needs to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ? How might God be calling you to share this good news with them? A few ideas:
o Pray for them. Intercessory prayer opens our hearts and the hearts of others to God’s grace, without which we can do nothing.
o Pray with them. Look for opportunities in the moment to invite God into the joys, difficulties, and details of their lives.
o Share your own story of how God is working in your life. Others need to see and hear concrete ways that a relationship with Jesus give meaning, hope, and purpose to life.
This Christmas, let’s pray for opportunities to both receive and proclaim the core gospel message in our workplaces, with family members, while celebrating and worshiping the Lord.
Jen Moser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.