Christmas. And Easter. And Charlie Brown.

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It’s almost Christmas Day. How are you holding up?

We’ve got our tree up! We opted for a real one this time, the artificial one gets to rest some more in the attic. I have to admit though, buying a real one when you own an artificial one makes me feel extravagant. But I tell myself it’s like buying pine-scented candles. But you get to decorate it.

 

I’m ready for Christmas, although my emotions are at odds with the crazy preparations for this holiday.

Coming off from a medical mission trip, my heart took some pictures that make me feel like any kind of gift shopping is an irresponsible display of waste. In addition, hearing from friends working among people in places Santa probably won’t visit this year is like being stuck in my own private slideshow of reasons why I am such a hypocrite. And then there are the grieving families in Newtown who will face Christmas morning with the bitter realization their children will never again be there to open Christmas presents.

These realities do not provide a happy backdrop to the season. But I am reminded that a greater reality takes all these realities and turns them into something more than what evil intended them for. I find comfort in this, that although one can hardly sing Joy to the World at the top of one’s voice without sadness mixed in this year, joy remains because the reason for Christmas has not changed.

The hope Christmas brings remains true.

 

And the more I think about it, the more I realize the story that started on Christmas Day did not just ring in Hosannas and shouts of gladness. Things took on a very painful turn before long, many years before the explosion of joy all the world now knows as Easter Morning.

And the Father, who knew what was to come, must have watched with sadness too.

Think about it.

After the angels and the shepherds and the magi, the cries of celebration were stilled.

The jealous and insecure Herod realized his plans were thwarted.

Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus had to escape to Egypt under the cover of darkness.

Meanwhile, back home, baby boys—two and under, were being killed and they were no more.

Then the baby Jesus grew up and into a life of service, with no home to call his own.

And then he was betrayed, sold, arrested, beaten, flogged, spit on, and finally nailed on a tree.

Only after all these did Easter happen.

 

So when we celebrate Christmas this year, should we include the parts of the story that aren’t so jolly? I think so. It’s the only way to make sense of life. And of our faith.

There is so much more to this holiday than the lights we hang outside our houses or the gifts we hide under the tree. If we get stuck in the party, we lose out on the meaning. And all we take away from it is a stack of credit card bills that will take us a year or more to pay off.

 

So this Christmas, don’t sit around the table talking about the gifts you didn’t get.

Or plan trips to the mall to exchange the gifts you did get.

Talk about Jesus.

And why he came.

And what happened after he was born.

And why that matters.

This Christmas, write a better story.

Be the reason other people stumble into joy.

 

I keep hearing people remind others to have a Christ-filled Christmas.

I want to add this doesn’t just mean decorating your house with several mangers.

Or playing only Christmas songs by “Christian” artists.

Or hanging Bible verses on your walls.

It doesn’t just mean bravely saying “Merry Christmas!” instead of “Happy Holidays!”

It means asking, not what Jesus would do because there is no way we can ever do what He did, but asking instead what Jesus would have you do.

 

We don’t know how Jesus would celebrate Christmas.

But we know how He lived.

So celebrate Christmas the way Jesus lived.

 

Here’s a cute way to remember what Christmas is all about:

 

 

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