Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. Few smells compete to the cinnamon-nutmeg-sugar that greets you everywhere you go. Jingle bells are heard from people dressed up as Santa sitting in front of businesses, collecting money for charities. There is something in the air that causes people to have an extra measure of joy, peace, and grace to everyone around them.
There is, unfortunately, a certain measure of annoyance – especially amongst Christians like myself – at how Christmas is viewed. A couple weeks ago, my pastor made this statement: “Christmas is the only major Christian holiday that is also a major secular holiday.” While this gives Christians a chance to speak into others’ lives about the purpose and origins of Christmas, it also gives non-Christians the freedom to use Christmas for their own means. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, it is my desire that people start to see Christmas for what it is and not what it has become.
What Christmas is, is a reminder of when Jesus Christ came down to Earth in the form of a human baby so that He could live, breathe, and walk as we do. He came down so He could experience what we experience, feel what we feel, and get on a personal level. And ultimately, He came down so He could sacrifice Himself and pay the blood penalty necessary to redeem mankind from their sins. That is the glorious message of hope that comes with Christmas.
What Christmas has become, however, is an opportunity to purchase gifts for family and friends. Baking cookies, decorating Christmas trees, and putting up bright-colored lights has become the center for many around this time of year. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these activities – in fact, I would highly encourage and endorse getting into the spirit of Christmas and using it as an opportunity to reach out to people – it should not be the center of the holiday. The center in all things, including Christmas, should be Jesus Christ.
So how do we as Christians tackle this issue without coming across as judgmental and condescending? First off, it is important to remember how Jesus addressed the commercialization issue in the New Testament. The temple in Jerusalem was supposed to be the most sacred place in all Israel. Imagine Jesus’s hurt when He walks into a “house of prayer” and finds people bartering and selling and shouting. He overturned tables and rebuked the people for turning the temple into a “den of thieves.”
While I do not think we should start overturning the tables in stores that have Christmas stock, nor should we walk down aisles shouting against commercialization and condemning people for turning Christmas into an opportunity to buy more stuff, there is a certain measure of truth in what Jesus did. He reminded people of the core values and beliefs that should be the center of their lives. He turned their heads away from their buying and selling so they could look at and see Him. Did He tell them to stop buying and selling? No. But He did indicate that there was a time and place for that. The place was not at the temple, and the time was not when they should be praying to Him and focusing on Him and His goodness and mercy and love.
The long short of this blog post is focus. Christmas is a glorious and beautiful time of year. There is a time and place to buy gifts, hang up lights, decorate the tree, and drink hot cocoa. But there is also definitely a time to reflect on what Jesus did when He came to Earth. A time to think of the amazing, selfless, humble love He gave us when He reduced Himself to human form. A time to be grateful for family and friends, and the fact that He came down so we could all be saved.
“The greatest gift you will ever receive will never be found under a Christmas tree. It is far too valuable to be stored in any other place but in the depths of your heart.Anonymous