I'm not going to lie ... I'm not a big fan of Christmas. Before you revolt and begin crying "FOUL," I love what Christmas is supposed to be about, I just don't love what Christmas has become.
Over the centuries Christmas has become the very thing it was initially created to distract people from. A little history on how Christmas came to be:
No one knows when Christ was born. In fact, for the beginning three centuries of Christianity, birthdays simply weren't a big deal. It wasn't until 336 that the first Christmas was recorded. Because of the assumed dates, it is widely accepted that Christian bishops throughout Europe and the Mediterranean placed the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25 in order to encourage Christ-followers to avoid indulging in pagan winter solstice celebrations. Truth is, much of our modern day Christmas traditions were originated in non-Christian practices: festival of lights (Jewish), yule festival (German), mistletoe (Scandinavian), giving of gifts to the poor (Roman). Even good ole St. Nick wasn't a Christmas figure:
All of that is to say, it seems to me that Christmas today has become the very thing it was trying to overcome. While the original idea of celebrating Christmas was to focus people on the coming of Christ, the current idea of celebrating Christmas is less about Christ and more about celebrating.
The modern day Christmas season is filled with plenty of celebrating, but most people aren't celebrating Jesus. Sure, they may be celebrating a lot of great things - family, friendship, generosity, love, etc., but they aren't focusing on the coming or the advent of Jesus.
It's a season of commercial focus and success, that can't be argued. According to Gallup, Americans will spend over $620 million dollars this Christmas season, accounting for 19%+ of the year's retail income.
It's also a season of controversy, as many non-Christian groups will come out and dispute the purpose for and the celebration of Jesus' birth, and many Christian groups will take up the mantle and fight back with anything but "peace on earth and good will toward men" in mind.
Christmas - a time where we sing "Silent Night" and proclaim "peace on earth" has become one of the noisiest times of the year with people feeling overwhelmed and stressed about finances, relationships, time management, and loneliness.
The noise of it all seems deafening.
This Christmas I want to encourage you to do something that may seem difficult amidst all of the noise ... something that Christmas should be all about to begin with.
I want to encourage you to worship. Here's how:
1. Christmas is about RECOGNIZING.
I didn't grow up in the Catholic church, or even in a liturgical church for that matter. While I'm not high on church traditions, I do recognize and believe in the value the them. I am especially fond of ADVENT. Advent is all about recognizing who Jesus was and celebrating his coming & becoming. It is about avoiding the first part of John 1:10 - his own people didn't recognize him - and holding onto the rest of the passage - to all who believed and accepted him.
If you want to spend time recognizing Jesus this December, celebrating Advent is a great way to do it. For more fantastic thoughts on Advent, check out THIS LITTLE PIECE in Time magazine by Louie Giglio. If you're looking for a solid, free, short resource to celebrate Advent, check out the free e-book "The Dawning of Indestructible Joy" by John Piper. (You can pick it up for free, HERE.)
2. Christmas is about BELIEVING.
No, I have not seen The Polar Express one too many times! I'm not talking about believing in Santa, I'm talking about believing in Jesus.
Christmas is a time of hope. It's a time of joy. It's a time of celebrating and believing in the One who has come to set the captives free. It's a time for Christians, new and old, to come back to the most basic tenant of faith that we have - believing in Jesus. For all of the other noise in life right now, Christmas is the perfect time to quiet it all, to be still, and to believe.
It's strange to me that many Christians I know seem to leave this part of Christmas out of Christmas. They'll read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," but they won't read the Christmas story. They'll stress over and focus on giving and receiving gifts, but they won't once reflect on the Gift that they believe in and need the most. They'll spend as much time as possible with all of those who are closest to them, but they'll spend almost no time with the One who is the closest of all.
Make sure you spend some time this Christmas believing.
3. Christmas is about REVELATION.
Emmanuel ... God with us ... REVEALED to us ...
There isn't much more to say about this one. This Christmas, make sure to keep this simple idea in focus: God revealed Himself to us through Jesus. That's what Advent, Christmas, and the entire season is all about. Heaven came down and touched Earth, and everything and every ONE was changed forever.
Now I'm not saying to throw Santa under the bus, to reject every present that's given to you, or to tell everyone saying "happy holidays" to take a flying leap, I'm simply suggesting that Christians everywhere take a break from the noise of Christmas. During this Christmas season, take some time for yourself to worship. Make it a point as a family to keep Christ at the center of your celebration. Recognize ... believe ... and rejoice in the revelation!
Just a quiet reminder in the midst of the noise from An Ordinary Guy ...