This time of year has always been my favorite. I love the shows on tv, the songs on the radio, the displays in the stores. I love pretending it’s colder outside than it actually is. (It is Houston, after all). I love seeing the trees go up in the malls and the lights go up at Highland Village. Resistance is futile. No matter how I try to fight it, I am totally sucked in by all the pomp and commercialism that surrounds this time of year. So much so that to a certain extent, I’ve held this season as something sacred. For as long as I can remember, this time of year has always brought with it the sense of something magical and extraordinary. I suppose this holds true for many people. What’s alarming about this is that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Christ. I didn’t attend church at all (not even the obligatory Christmas Eve Service) until I was out of college, so none of the feelings that I use to get from this season were driven by religion, much less an actual love for the Lord. This is indicative of how, as a culture, we have managed to take what is true – that there is something sacred and extraordinary and miraculous about this season – and we’ve made it false. We’ve made it false by attributing those feelings to things that are neither eternal or real, instead of placing our affections in their rightful place during Christmas: on Christ.
Growing up, Christmas was never about Christ for my family, however we had lovely Christmases, filled with good food, family, gifts and laughter. I cherish those memories to this day – but there was a complete absence of Christ in the celebration. Now that I am a part of the Christian sub-culture, what I find even more alarming than the complete absence of Christ during this season that I use to know, is the false veneer of Him that can thrive even among us who identify as Christians if we fail to rigorously pursue truth during this time of year. This false veneer of Christ is even more dangerous than the complete absence of Christ because it deceives us into believing that we know something we don’t know, that we are something we aren’t. Something my husband and I constantly guard against is our boys growing up with fond and beautiful memories of Christmas Eve services and Advent calendars and nativity scenes and all the other Christmas-time religious trappings of the gospel message, yet lacking a real, deep and sincere understanding of the gospel.
Is it possible that we in the church celebrate so much around Christ during this season, that we completely miss Him in the midst of it?
I know I’ve done it. It is so easy it is to allow this time of year to become centered on things that are temporary, things that promise a fulfillment that they simply cannot deliver. After all, isn’t that what we’re all searching for? In all of the buying and shopping and planning, aren’t we just hoping to fulfill or satisfy ourselves and others? Every year I search and worry about what I’m going to get Chris because I want him to be genuinely happy with his gift. And every year, no matter how big of a home run my man scores in the gift-giving department, I am always a little disappointed. Not in the gift. Not in the selfish, childish – “I didn’t get exactly what I wanted” sort of way – but in the – “that was absolutely perfect, so why do I still have this tinge of dissatisfaction?” kind of way. I’ve pondered this for the last several years as I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with my Christmas status quo, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an issue of expectations. However, the issue is not that my expectations are too high, but rather that they are too low. Each year, I leave this season disappointed because I have trained my heart on things that can never fulfill. I fail to remember the Gospel at Christmas.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
Go ahead and breathe those verses in like a fresh breath of air.
There’s a type of indwelling fulfillment that only the gospel brings.
So as the days tick away drawing us nearer and nearer to Christmas morning, don’t neglect the gospel this season. Read those verses one more time before you carry on with your day… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…The audacity of what God did on Christmas night some 2000 years ago should continually astound us, but after years and years of hearing the story and singing the songs, we’ve somehow managed to let the simplicity and absurdity of the story become rote. God became man. He took on flesh in the form of the smallest and weakest among us. Yet the power of Christmas does not merely reside in the miraculous birth of this child, but in the atoning death that He would one day die. Not just a martyr’s death, but an atoning death, which once resurrected would redeem a fallen world and reclaim the hearts of sinful man. Set your hope in anything less than that this Christmas season – the pure, unadulterated gospel – and December 26th will bring with it a frail hollowness as the holiday hype fades away. But the indwelling fulfillment of the gospel carries on even into the long shadows and bleakness of January.