Much to my chagrin, my kids wanted to hold a banner that says, “Ho, Ho, Ho” for our Christmas card picture this year. I guess it’s not that bad. After all, when someone reads or hears “Ho, Ho, Ho” they immediately associate it with Christmas. Of course, it’s the American commercialized version of Christmas that it’s associated with – Santa Claus, snowfall, jingle bells, evergreen trees, wrapped presents, eggnog, etc. You know, the most wonderful time of the year. But then again, is there any other version of Christmas alive and well in this day and age?
When I think back to the fond memories that I have of celebrating Christmas as a young boy before I was a Christian, I realize that there is not much different from how I celebrate it now. Of course, I’m mindful of the true “reason for the season” and I do spend time meditating on the reality of Immanuel, God with us. But other than the motivation of my heart, my outward acts and traditions in which I participate do not really set me apart from the rest of the secular crowd.
Why is it that there will be more people at the mall shopping for last minute Christmas gifts tomorrow night than there will be sitting in the pews of our churches offering songs of praise, worship, and adoration in remembrance of Jesus’ birth and going away in wonder just like the shepherds of long ago, telling everyone about what they had seen and heard? How many people are going to rush off to their Christmas celebrations this weekend and leave Jesus stranded at church, waiting to be picked up? How many families will exchange gifts and never once consider the gift of Jesus, born to be both a Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world.
And even if people do abandon the mall and take a seat at church this weekend, what will they find? In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown was looking for anyone who knew the true meaning of Christmas. At one point, he witnesses his dog Snoopy putting great effort into decorating his dog house in response to a flyer that read, “Find the true meaning of Christmas. Win MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Enter the Neighborhood Christmas lights and display contest!” Charlie’s response is, “OH NO, my own dog has gone commercial”. Even in our churches today, there is a great risk of “going commercial”. There is a risk of conforming a little too much to the patterns of this world in a response to meet expectations and scratch the particular Christmas itch that most of us have developed over the years.
What then? How are we to worship and honor the Lord Jesus during this time of year? How are we to remember and celebrate His birth? Although I intended those to be rhetorical questions that I could use to close this post, I will attempt to provide a personal perspective and personal call-to-action in response.
- Don’t be too busy to see Jesus and worship Him – as a father to three young children and two extended families to accommodate, one of the biggest joy stealers in my life is simply being too busy. I need to take a cue from the Shepherds who in faith left their flocks and went in search of the newborn Messiah, a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. They left the busyness of their work and received the message by faith and responded in obedience. I need to make time to worship the newborn King.
- Share the good news with others – although the shepherds did indeed return to their jobs and resumed their “old” lives, but they also glorified and praised God and bore witness about what they had seen. Christmas provides a unique opportunity to be able to share the good news of Jesus’ birth.
- Don’t respond to the calendar – why should things magically change on December 26th? A great brother in the Lord reminded me this morning that God taking on flesh was not just about Christmas day. The joy of Christmas day is ours to be enjoyed daily, 24x7x365.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.