I was almost ready to hit the streets to finish my Christmas shopping, when visions of a Christmas blog danced in my head. I was compelled to type. Ministers say Easter and Christmas are the toughest sermons to prepare. Dare I say anything about Christmas?
I’m not coming from a place of believing I have it right — rather this post is written from the bottom of the trail, looking up at my “Christmas path,” contemplating how I might look differently at the holidays.
I question how well I’m actually celebrating Jesus’ birth. I’m spread thin and tired. Possibly spending too much. Not giving enough to the truly needy. Is all I am doing in the name of Christmas glorifying Jesus? Is it about Him at all? Should I be “more focused” on Jesus now than in, say February or August?
We’ve seen the buttons: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” True, for a Christian. But is the message effective? Even many sincere followers of Christ find December to be a tough time to squeeze in prayer and reading the Bible. Stress can rise as we prepare for the joys of seeing extended family, squeezing in one more event, and shopping…
We try to be extra jolly and bright, but it can be hard. Sometimes we resign ourselves to the merriment and set aside being with Jesus until the calm of winter. Or possibly we begin to resent the “secular side” of Christmas and all the traditional “trappings” we can’t seem to escape. Some of us are lonely and just wish we could skip Christmas. Others hang Christmas trees upside down and stop exchanging any gifts — all in the name of keeping Christ in Christmas. The extreme even become possessive of the Christ child, and militant toward the non Christians who are participating in our holiday.
What if we took off the well-intentioned, but slightly preachy buttons that might alienate, and simply reminded ourselves that Jesus is the reason for life in every season! Christmas is fun. It’s just the date we choose to outwardly celebrate His birth.
We know the Gospel is our joy and our responsibility to celebrate EVERY day. What if we took the pressure off ourselves to be more attentive to Jesus in December? Isn’t that really our everyday privilege? What if we believed that Jesus really did come for everyone, and experienced Christmas as a unique opportunity to be a little more bold in letting Jesus shine through us to others — to strangers, our families, believers and non believers alike? What if the joy of our Christmas boldness grew into the new year?
It is open season on Christ all year long. But at Christmastime, the average person is more tolerant and celebratory — no matter what their faith. Most people on the street know Christmas originated in Jesus’ birth, so they’re a little more tolerant of our prayer and worship. They love Santa and gift-giving. They accept our offerings and enjoy our singing — even about the little child in Bethlehem. Most Americans wave white flags around Christmas. Everyone seems to want a little more goodwill toward men. “Christmas spirit” (whatever it’s source) is contagious.
What an opportunity! Instead of letting others see us struggle within our ranks about how to celebrate and what “should not” be the center of the Christmas celebration, let them see that Jesus always reigns in our hearts! Christmas is a great opportunity to share the One we celebrate all year long.
They may not understand our faith, but they’re watching. We can give gifts of grace as well as wrapped packages, because we’re the children of our King! His abundance is ours! We can celebrate family as one of God’s most precious gifts. We can have fun and joyfully receive and celebrate the mystery of the Gospel as little children.
Hopefully, some will ask the reason for our joy, and give us an opportunity to tell them about the Jesus who is always with us — our personal Savior. We don’t have to make heroic or divisive efforts to be sure outsiders see we’re all about Jesus in December, because we constantly surrender and accept His grace by faith — usually in the quiet of our daily prayers. Jesus knows our hearts.
We don’t enter God’s kingdom through debate or problem-solving, but we receive it in faith as little children. Maybe at Christmas we need to be less pious and scholarly. As we continually open our heart, mind and soul to Jesus, we can leave it to Him to create opportunities to reveal Himself to others through us — or not. How is Christmas different from any other time of year in this regard? Only in that others are watching more intently.
We as Christians are on the world’s stage whether we like it or not. What are we saying? Let’s reflect Him. Let’s give gifts and make merry — all with the purpose, not of preaching, but of loving. Let’s open our hearts first to Him in intentional prayer and worship. Then, to each other and our neighbors. We have a golden opportunity to share our everyday friend and Savior, Jesus, with the watching world.
Just how we celebrate Christmas isn’t the point. Rather we join together at Christmas and everyday to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” as Luke 10:27 teaches. To be thankful. To praise Him and to share what He has done in our lives.
Let’s realize that “Christmas” might not be just for Christians, but also a God-given opportunity for us to enter the world of nonbelievers, with a hall pass to share our faith and our holiday freely and generously. We can have total faith that as we open our hearts to Him and to others, the Babe of Bethlehem will be with us, and He will appreciate our celebration.