“You are such a Scrooge,” my dear wife said to me this past week, though I am sure she must have meant it in the most edifying of ways. But as much as she thinks she really knows me, I am pretty sure she is missing it on this one.
I love Christmas. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year–especially when they cancel the competition (March Madness). Whether it’s the season to be jolly, I am not sure. But it’s certainly a special time, and with childlike anticipation I look forward to it every year. You’ll hear no “Bah humbugs” from me. There are so many things I love about Christmas.
For instance, I love the fact that this time of year the whole world stops to focus on our Jesus. Yes, I realize they have gone to great lengths to “secularize” our holiday, but as much as they try they just can’t keep Christ out of Christmas. I am still amazed that you can go into stores or watch movies where they are playing music about our Savior. From George Bailey and the gang of It’s a Wonderful Life singing, “Glory to the newborn King!” to Clark W. Griswold and his family belting out “Joy to the world, the LORD is come!” in Christmas Vacation, they are proclaiming that Jesus is King and Lord of this world!
I love the reminders about giving, and the opportunities to give to others who are in need. Some of the greatest blessings of my life have come at Christmas, giving to others–even in something small like an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Probably the greatest gift I ever received was when my kids pooled their money to pay for a child to go through a malnutrition program in Haiti–likely saving that child’s life. Several years ago, one of my daughters “gave me” a Compassion child which she sponsored for my Christmas present. I took over that sponsorship not long after, and now five years later I still have the privilege of giving every month in support of a little boy in Kenya who is growing to be a godly young man! And I love that my kids always gathered their money to give a big tip to whoever waited on us at the pizza restaurants we went to on Christmas Eve. God so loved the world that HE GAVE…and those of us who follow Him get to do likewise.
I love the nostalgia and the memories of Christmases past. There’s no holiday that has such an emotional attachment as Christmas. From trinkets from my childhood Christmas that come out this time of year, to the ornaments on our tree made by our children when they were small, there are so many sweet memories connected to Christmas. And those memories are so easily brought to mind through sights and sounds and even smells this time of year.
I love the church fellowships and parties and celebrations associated with Christmas, even if this year those will be limited because of this pandemic we are in. What a joy it has been to watch over the years at TCASC as children who were singing in our preschool choir moved on to the kids choir and then to the youth praise band, and now they are adults leading us in worship. I am sure glad we found a way to have our church Christmas program anyway, even if it will only be online. But the good news is, since it will livestreaming, we can share it with friends and family far and wide.
But there are some things about Christmas that I don’t like, which bring out the accusations of my Scrooge-ness from my better half. And at the risk of you thinking less of me too, I’ll share a few of those.
I don’t like obligatory gift giving. There’s something about exchanging names, or trading gift cards with a family member you haven’t seen since last Christmas, that get on my last nerve. It bothers me when one person who has just about everything they could ever want or need gives to another who has just about everything they could want or need, while there are so many others out there who have little or nothing. I don’t think that’s what “it’s better to give than to receive” is all about.
I don’t like the hustle and bustle of Christmas, where we tend to get busier and more stressed and frustrated than at other times of the year, because we are trying to fit everything in, or have the perfect Martha Stewart Christmas. It often causes us to lose our focus, and miss the “peace on earth” that Jesus came to bring. And one of the crazy ironies that pastors have discovered about church life is that you can’t get much ministry accomplished between Thanksgiving and the end of the year because people are too busy with Christmas (supposedly celebrating the birth of Christ).
I don’t like the “Disneyfication” of Christmas, as someone has described it, where the whole holiday turns into something akin to a fairy tale instead of the story of God sending His Son to save humanity. This could probably go under the “over-commercialization of Christmas” complaint, but I would be sure to add that it also includes the mythical “magic” of Christmas. I hate to burst any bubbles out there, but there is no such thing as Christmas magic.
Which leads me to the point of all of this, as we give our attention to Advent and make our way toward Christmas. 2020 has been a tough year for many of us, on several sides. But if you are expecting some sort of holiday magic to make it all better and turn the year around in the next three weeks, I suspect you will be greatly disappointed. That’s just not reality, and it never was intended to be.
As pastor Scotty Smith tweeted this week: “Let’s not settle for a ‘merry little Christmas.’ Advent reveals the depth of our need; Christmas, the cost of our redemption. Joy is for the desperate, not the bored. Grace is for sinners, not the disappointed. Jesus comes to make all things new, not all things cute.”
And if we will place our faith in the One who was born that first Christmas day to an unwed teenage mother on the run, we can find a peace and hope and joy and love that this world can’t offer. It won’t make all our troubles go away, but it will change our perspective, and even better, it will change us. Because that’s why that little baby was born–to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. To save us from our sins. To give us a hope and a future, and secure our eternity.
So here’s hoping that your Advent season is filled with “tidings of comfort and joy,” as you give your full focus to our Lord Jesus, who came to set us free from this crazy world. Glory to God in the highest!