Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year…right?
Who doesn’t love Christmas? Who doesn’t enjoy the functions, celebrations, events, great food, company, and music? As I’ve been reflecting through this Christmas season, I have been more observant this year of the attitudes and manners of different people as they are out and about. Christmas seems to be the one time of the year where we see various emotions represented. Many people are filled with joy, happiness, big smiles, and an enjoyment of life seems to be obvious and apparent. Though Christmas brings many positive things, as it always should, many people are not experiencing this joy and gladness. Many are lonely, without gifts and family, cold, homeless, re-living or grieving over a past experience or relationship, and struggling to find this peace and joy that Christmas is meant to bring. Why are there so many mixed and jumbled components thrown into this season? Stores are packed out, traffic is jammed, houses are decorated, trees are lit, churches are often well attended, parties are thrown, amazing food is prepared, and the list goes on and on. The hustle and bustle seems to be at full force. A question I have asked myself throughout the past week is: Have we become accustomed to the business and circumstances of this season that we loose sight of the Christ of Christmas and what that truly means?
Here are a few misconceptions I’ve noted that our culture tends to lean into during the Christmas season. Obviously there are many more out there, but these can each be replaced with what the true meaning of Christmas is intended to be.
1. Christmas traditions and rituals are more important than reflecting and meditating on the birth of Christ. It seems to be far too convenient and culturally accepted to go through the Christmas season without giving any attention, glory, and praise to Christ. We can never loose sight of the original, intended purpose for Christmas. Those of us who know Christ must make an intentional effort to focus on the Christ of Christmas and His birth. Others are yearning for this relationship!
2. Saying Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas=the same thing. Multiple “holidays” occur throughout each year. When we minimize Christmas to just another holiday season, we are stepping away from the power of the “Christ” emphasis that makes this particular one so unique and significant. Saying “Merry Christmas” continually during this time spreads joy, power and spiritual meaning that others need to hear!
3. In order to prove our love and friendship to others, we must give them the perfect gift(s) each Christmas. The gifts that we give are originally meant to illustrate and demonstrate the gifts that were brought to Jesus during his birth. Although giving gifts also shows our love and appreciation for others as an overflow, and we want to do it out of consideration and genuine care for that person, we must not loose sight of how much we give, and what our purpose is. If giving gifts becomes the core of our Christmas season, it can easily turn into an anti-biblical model and dishonor Christ. We should give what we can out of what we have been given, but at the end of the day our value is not in the earth-ly gifts we receive.
4. Christmas is one of the few times every year we should be in church. Christmas, Easter..these Sunday’s are always more full than others. Pastors and church staffs anticipate and expect more people. This is a good, exciting anticipation, but why is this the case? God is worthy of our praise not just every Sunday of the year, or less, but every day. Christmas and Easter obviously hold a strong-significant importance and biblical role in our worship and Christian faith, but our culture today seems to be very much ok with this model of church. We must encourage worship to be a weekly, daily exercise and joy, but also take advantage of the heavier-church days, expecting God to move and brake that cycle.
5. Slowing down during Christmas is not an option. There’s too much to do! Business happens to everyone during Christmas. Stress levels rise and to-do lists grow. Although things often do need to get done in order to enjoy Christmas, we must keep it in perspective. At the end of the day, whether our party or gifts were perfected, Jesus was still born, and that reason to celebrate does not change or depend on our busy Christmas schedules. This truth should cause us to slow down and rest.
6. Christmas should be self-focused and me-centered. We have all faced this phase before, I’m sure. “I want this or that..I need this or that.” This attitude and mentality is easy to do. When you don’t have what you desire at your fingertips, the “woe is me” attitude creeps in. If it wasn’t for the humbling birth and entrance of Jesus, we would not have what we have in the first place. Every gift is a blessing from above, whether a relationship or circumstantial gift. Instead of thinking of what we don’t have, if we look to others who have very little, it does a mighty work. People are in need all the time, but especially during Christmas. This should be a giving, selfless act of our worship, demonstrating the hands and feet of Christ-taking our eyes of ourselves and placing them on others.
Luke chapter 2 brings us the Christmas story of the birth of Christ. Verses 10-14 speak of the angel of the Lord addressing the shepherds of the field about what was to come regarding Jesus and his effect on the world.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
These verses encourage me because it reminds me of the supremacy and sole-focus that this day represented. It was all about the birth of Jesus. Even the shepherds traveled from miles and miles away, to see this baby boy that was to bring hope to the world. The words of praise that the angel was proclaiming pointed to the glory and majesty of Jesus. “Peace among those whom he is pleased.” The word peace speaks volumes to me, when the world around us is running a million miles an hour and there seem to be so many tragic instances in our country.. Can we find peace this Christmas? This peace is not given or provided by anything man-made, but it is provided through the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Christmas traditions, parties, gifts, busy shopping malls, decorated lights, a packed-out schedule, friends, and even family…cannot take the place of peace that only Jesus can bring. My challenge to myself is to find and rest in the peace that is given through God’s Son, to those “whom he is pleased.” If you know Jesus, then you can know peace, and you can know the true meaning of Christmas. If you don’t know Jesus you can, through a personal relationship with Him. So slow down, enjoy the fun eventful things that are planned this Christmas, but keep Jesus in the center of it all, and know it is all a blessing from above.