I watched a History Channelspecial on the history of Christmas on Thanksgiving night. There was nothing in it that I hadn’t heard before, but when it was all laid out in 2,000 years of sequence, it definitely got me to thinking–again–about all the trappings of the world that we’ve allowed to intrude on the way we celebrate Christmas.
From ancient pagan traditions that were adopted into the earliest forms of the “Christ mass,” to Clement Moore’s St. Nick poem and Madison Avenue’s marketing here in America, we’ve been hit from every side with what I would call the accessorizingof Christmas. There are so many externals we’ve come to accept that really don’t have anything to do with the incarnation of the Son of God. And as much as everyone wants to “keep Christ in Christmas,” the reality is, most of what we do this time of year has little to do with Jesus, other than maybe a manger scene on our coffee table and a few Christmas carols that we hear playing in the mall while we shop.
Now, let me say, this is not intended to heap more guilt onto your shoulders. It is a suggestion, in this season of Advent, to re-evaluate what this thing we call Christmas is all about. What steps can we as the people of God take to do things a little differently? Are there realistic ways that we can remember “the reason for the season” and not get caught up in the commercialization we all complain about, yet most participate in? How can we honor Jesus in our environment of Christian community, and how can we truly put Him first in our family traditions?
My one suggestion: simplify.There’s still time to make some choices–23 days, in fact–that you don’t have to get caught in the world’s trap, stress yourself out, spend all your money, and chase the fantasy that we’ve made Christmas into. Just say no. It’s okay. Some people will probably think you’re crazy, and no doubt some will call you Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch. But that doesn’t matter. To truly be a follower of Christ, you often have to go against the flow. In fact, there’s no occasion in all of Scripture that more confounded the conventional wisdom of the world than the birth of Jesus we are supposedly celebrating.
Who would have thought that the Messiah would be born to an unwed teenage mother, in an animal food trough? The witnesses were not royalty but lowly shepherds–and a few cattle. This was the greatest of stories ever told, yet it unfolded not with great fanfare but in the simplest and most unexpected of ways. So, if you want to follow the Biblical pattern, go against the flow. Strip away the unneccessaries, and all the expectations from the world, and do it your own way. Or better yet, Hisway.
I won’t prescribe what your Christmas should look like, and how you and your family should celebrate the holiday(s), but I will suggest, strongly, that you not succumb to the pressure of the world to do ittheirway.
More on this subject next week. In the mean time, have a very joyous season, and may you truly experience “peace on earth” during this season of the year. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.