Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Christmas Ever

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:10-12).

Two women were doing a little Christmas shopping one day when they happened past the store window of a local merchant who had a nativity scene proudly displayed amidst the other things in the window. One woman turned to the other and said, "Can you believe it? Now the church is trying to horn in on Christmas."

It may surprise you to know that Christmas is celebrated on what originally was a pagan festival called Saturnalia. It was the only day of the year in which slaves could do as they liked. And since so many of the early Christians came from the ranks of slavery, the church decided to use that day to celebrate the birth of Christ. In 353 A.D. the Pope Julius I decreed December 25 as the Feast of the Nativity. So maybe in a sense, the church did sort of horn in on this holiday. But like other pagan holidays, the church baptized it and gave it spiritual significance.

Does Christmas have much spiritual significance anymore? Well, it does seem that a person has to work at it to make Christmas a spiritual season. There are just so many distractions. So it is important that we prepare for Christmas.

No other holiday gives way to more preparation than does Christmas. Retailers clear out the Halloween stuff and move in their Christmas goods. By Thanksgiving, if not earlier, kids are getting their Christmas lists together and families are pulling box after box of Christmas stuff out of the closet in order to decorate the house. Christmas cards are bought and sent. Special baking. Numerous parties. Over-spent budgets. Hearing the song Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer a jillion times. Kids on sugar highs. Invasions of relatives. Stress to get it all done. No wonder the season often finds us reaching for the Maalox and the aspirin. And to top it off, when Christmas finally comes and goes, many of us will go through the post-holiday blues—a letdown of sorts after all the preparation and all the hype and all the hectic activity comes to a grinding halt.

All that may be true, you might say, but after all Christmas only comes once a year, and these are just the sort of things we do at Christmas. They're traditional. It just wouldn't be Christmas without these things.

It wouldn't? The truth of the matter is that many of us are so locked into our traditional celebrations and preparations for Christmas that in the midst of it all we miss Christ. Oh, not entirely. He gets His place in the nativity scene we set on the shelf. And we'll probably make it to church and to the Christmas Eve service—that's traditional too. But outside the walls of the church building, where is Christ in your Christmas? It’s easy to miss Christ in Christmas. John tells us that Jesus’ own people missed Him. We can miss Him too … unless … unless we take a few steps to encounter Him.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • spend some time each day in quiet devotion;
  • focus on a carol a week—meditate on its words and its meaning, move it from your mouth to your heart;
  • serve someone less fortunate in some tangible way—if possible do it relationally in addition to just throwing money in a kettle;
  • attend worship faithfully;
  • have a birthday party for Jesus.

Why don't you try some of these things this Christmas season? You might be surprised in the difference it could make.

While wrapping presents, a mother said to her daughter, “Let’s make this the best Christmas ever.” To which her daughter replied, “I thought the first one was.” It is. This year, worship Christ, not Christmas.

Guide to Prayer
• Give God thanks for coming to us in Christmas.
• Ask for eyes to see Him and for a heart to make him preeminent in your celebration of Christmas this season.

1 comment:

  1. I'd forgotten the pagan holiday part of Christmas. Thank you for the reminder. Most of all, thank you for the reminder that CHRIST is the most important *AND BEST* part of CHRISTmas!