Bethlehem or bedlam?

December 17, 2007

Pastor Mike Newsom, Lamson Evangelical Free Church of Dassel

Bethlehem was small, but blessed forever as the birthplace of the Messiah.

Even the name of this small town is significant. “Beth Lehem” means “the house of bread.” This is the place where the “Bread from Heaven” came to earth.

The name Bethlehem will always remind Christians of the gift from Heaven and of Christmas time. Christmas time, however, doesn’t always remind us of Christ.

Christmas has become a distortion. It is often an insane time of it year, when people find themselves overwhelmed in frenzied activity.

It can be a time of much grief and sorrow and depression, just as it is also a time of joy and hope.

Instead of a time to remember the birth of God’s holy Messiah, some turn it into a time of drunken, pagan revelry.

Communities, schools, and businesses are ordered to keep Christ out of their Christmas decorations and activities. Instead of Christmas trees, they are now erecting “holiday” trees, and store clerks are instructed not to say “Merry Christmas,” but instead, “Happy Holiday.” Christmas becomes less Christian every year.

In 1644, the English Parliament passed a law making it illegal to celebrate Christmas in any manner. The reason for this was that the meaning of Christmas had gotten lost in drunken revelry, rioting, and depravity. It was so bad that decent people were afraid to go outdoors.

This is what Christmas degenerates to if the Christ of the Bible is left out. Instead of a celebration of the righteousness of God, it becomes a celebration of the wickedness of man.

People complain that Christmas becomes bedlam. The definition of bedlam is a place or condition of noise or confusion. The word comes from an insane asylum in England named Bedlam.

For many, that makes the word most appropriate to describe the insane confusion of this holiday.

In 1247, a hospital was founded in England, St. Mary’s of Bethlehem. Over time, it became a mental institution, and Bethlehem became shortened and, through cockney, eventually pronounced Bedlam.

Bethlehem, that peaceful little town of Christ’s birth, becomes, with Christ left out, nothing but bedlam.

Of course, the message here is to keep Christ in your Christmas. Yet, there is more to that message.

The complete message is, make Christ the center of your life, always. For those who doubt, scripture indicates that there is nothing ahead, but bedlam.