The old Christmas song says, "Its the most wonderful time
of the year." And for the Christian it should ring true. Yet for
many, Christmas is a season to survive. Depression, grief and loneliness
are often exacerbated by shattered family circumstances and increased
debt loads. Christmas calendars are overloaded, causing us to think
in terms of "getting through the holidays." We are left to
wonder if the "postcard" Christmas exists anymore. What happened
to the snowy white Yuletide of childhood?
Christmas has been hijacked by cynics, exploited by capitalists, and
trampled by consumers. Christmas cheer comes under a withering attack.
The checkout lines go on forever; we growl and whine when only one of
10 registers is open. There is no charity in the mall parking lot; we
hunt the elusive parking space like wolves. Cheap-suited Santas charge
a kings ransom for a picture of little Eddie or Tiffany crying.
December is full of long, clamorous days culminating in the wearied
singing of "Silent Night." Exhausted by cantatas, parties,
shopping, feasting, families and travel, we arrive at the Bethlehem
manger suffering from heat prostration. Christmas Eve will find us lifting
up our weary voices to sing, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come."
Then we rush from the service to get one last gift, or visit one last
So soon it is over. We save the bows, burn the wrappings, strip the
tree, and labor over our New Years resolutions. Too often we have
missed the point. Were like the man who goes to the coast but
never sees the ocean. The threat of a holiday hijacking is all too real.
Unless we engage our hearts in a true celebration of Christmas joy,
we are easily caught up in a pointless and mindless holiday. When we
lose sight of the meaning of Christmas, the season is deeply devalued.
Isaiah saw religious celebration divorced from true worship. The people
loved their feasts and festivals, but they lost their perspective. God
speaks words through Isaiah that fall like a blow: "The New Moons,
the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies I cannot endure iniquity
and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My
soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them"
(Isaiah 1:13,14, NKJV). The children of Israel turned their holy days
into holidays and God declined to be added to the guest list. If Isaiah
were around today, he could well offer the same prophecy without changing
a single word.
The true spirit of a Christian Christmas must be reestablished in our
hearts and homes. All is not lost. The ultimate story of Gods
love is still true. The glory is still there to be witnessed by seekers.
How shall we truly experience the joy of Christmas? How can we define
a true "Christmas spirit"?
The joy of Christmas is to be found in a spirit of reconciliation.
Christmas should focus our hearts on the reconciling work of Christ.
Paul couches the coming of Christ in terms of reconciliation. "God
was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Corinthians
5:19). Any celebration of Christ should reflect the core purpose of
Most of the issues that drive people apart are petty and selfish. What
a tragedy that the Christmas celebration is often the backdrop for renewed
acrimony, or the tired rehearsal of past offense.
What joy we can know when, in the spirit of Christ, we exercise the
same prerogative that God exercised in sending His only Son to the world,
the prerogative of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christmas affords
a stern reminder that people we have left in the cold could have a warm
place with us around the Christmas tree if we were only willing to be
more like the One we celebrate.
The joy of Christmas is to be found in a spirit of reconnection.
Good news must be shared. Christmas should draw us together to tell
the worlds greatest story once again, and share true fellowship.
Jesus told of a woman who lost a valuable coin. She searched her house
until it was found, and when that precious coin was restored to her
she called all her neighbors and friends so that they could rejoice
together. The implication is inescapable. The good news is cause to
gather those near and far to celebrate. Families that fight over the
Christmas holidays show a callous disrespect for the Lord.
Family fights rarely yield anything but more rancor and bitterness.
The Christmas celebration should put all grievances "off limits"
if Christ will truly be honored. A proper celebration and shared appreciation
of Christs work will often dissolve disputes and heal broken hearts.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the Christmas morning reading
of the greatest story ever told. There is something powerful and sacred
when generations share the core of our faith.
The connection of grandchildren and grandparents through a shared faith
creates memories that touch generations to come. "Christmas"
and "alone" are two words that should never connect. Joy in
the season is found in reconnecting with those we love, and even with
those we have lost touch with along the way.
The joy of Christmas is to be found in a spirit of rejoicing.
Luke reports that Christs birth was accompanied by angelic praise
(Luke 2:13,14). We would do well to join the angelic chorus. A conscious
effort should be made by every believer to put away all impediments
to praise. Scrooge should not be numbered among us on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas season affords an opportunity to rid the heart of sadness
and gloom. Hope brightens and whitens all that it touches. The Bethlehem
manger is much, much more than a historical milestone; it is an unfolding
promise to all who believe. Jesus is the Gift who keeps on giving. The
Christian can rejoice in things eternal, even when temporal circumstances
The joy of Christmas is to be found in a spirit of generosity.
My favorite Christmas text is found in John 3:16: "For God so loved
the world that He gave
." We need to reaffirm the sacred
foundation that supports the gift-giving tradition of the Christmas
season. While we should not be carried away to excessive debts and pride-driven
spending, we should exercise generosity in deed and spirit as a true
celebration of Jesus. Remember that the gift is always a token of the
heart. Most gifts are soon broken, used and forgotten, but a loving,
giving heart endures the tests of time.
Unless we reinvest Christmas with its glorious message and meaning,
the holidays will pass like a pagan festival. Unless we truly celebrate
Christ, the greatest story ever told will be lost amid the bells, bows
and baubles. Make your holiday a holy day. Add another seat or two at
your table. Set free whatever grudges or ill will you would hold on
to. Sing the carols at the top of your voice. Tell Christs story
with thanksgiving and awe. Wrap every present in love. You are the reason
Jesus came. No one has more cause to celebrate than you do.