The Good and Ugly of Christmas


Ah Christmas time,

Reminds us to go to church.

That’s good… and ugly.

Good = We all need to be reminded that we all really need a relationship with God, that we all really need deep communion with people, that we all need realignment with priorities, and that we all need lasting hope.

Ugly = Just as we put on and then take off the ugly Christmas sweaters, we all put on and then take off the warm fuzzies during the “holidays”. Each year we tend to remember Christ and then forget Christ… remember then forget… remember then forget… again and again… and, as a result, each annual punch bowl process can make the effect fainter, and more obscured.

In his book, Center Church, Timothy Keller writes “Revival is necessary because religion is so different from the gospel but is such an effective counterfeit. Though these systems of motivation and purpose have utterly different lineages, on the surface they may look like twins.”1

Religion is the remind/forget/remind/forget process. It gives us momentary-impressions2 of devotion… of heart-felt desire… of hopeful returns… of self-assuredness… of rightness… of warmth and safety… of what-we-should-do. But religion is a mirage if not grounded in a remind/remind/remind/remind practice.

As Keller’s statement above suggests, religion’s grasp on us (or is it our grasp on religion?) has put us in a position today where we need revival. We need a motivation to break out of our monotonous routines.

As wonderful as Christmas-y church is… and as necessary of a reminder it is… without the continued communion of the Gospel with our daily ups & downs & whos & whats there is ultimately a misunderstanding of the application of Christmas. Christmas is not meant to be a once a season reminder just so that we could return to our forgetful grind. Christmas is the gospel— Good News of GREAT joy. It is the message of a joy so great that our forgetfulness should never have a place in our minds again. It is the message of the everyday-for-forever transformation of our minds… because our savior remembered us.


 1 – Timothy Keller, Center Church, Zondervan/Redeemer City to City, 2012, p.63

2 – Is “momentary-impression” an oxymoron?

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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