I’ve celebrated the Christmas holiday every year of my life. Decorations, parties, gifts, church services, etc. But something is noticeably different this time around. This time around, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore. This time around, it’s “not like the ones I used to know.” This time around, Christmas means more. This time around, my heart is stirred and invigorated by the thought that I really didn’t know what I was celebrating, that thing I used to call Christmas. This time around, I am realizing that after years and years of celebrating the same holiday over and over, I am only now coming to grips with the fact that I will spend the rest of eternity growing in my understanding of what this holiday represents.
Honestly, I think there are some people out there who are tired of celebrating the same old thing every year, and feeling so inauthentic about it. When you peel back the layers, most people see this holiday as a time to be nicer, be more generous, be more considerate, be more thankful, etc. — and it’s all very contrived and forced. If that’s all this holiday is about, then I’m done celebrating. I’m sorry, but all of that business just isn’t working out too well for me. But if Christmas is more — if Christmas is about God sending his Son to become one of us, to bring salvation through the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from the power of sin, and newness of life by his own life, death, and resurrection — then true joy comes, joy that awakens us to become deeply kind, loving, compassionate, generous, merciful, thankful, etc.
Let me ask you: Has this holiday become personal for you yet? The blessings of Christmas promise true and authentic joy, offered to those who receive Christ, the Son of God, by faith. In a prayer written for the Christmas season (known by some Christians as “Advent”), Michael Spencer expresses his desire to celebrate Christmas in a way that honors its truest meaning. I invite you to pray this prayer with me in preparation for the Christmas holiday:
Almighty and most merciful Father, we come to the season of Advent with the brokenness of the world in our eyes, the cries of our fellow human beings in our ears, and our own sinfulness in our hearts. We come to Bethlehem as those who need a Savior. We come to the light because the darkness has almost overwhelmed us, but the darkness can never overcome You. We come to Bethlehem as invited guests; to see, to wonder, and to be changed by the Child Messiah who is Jesus. For his sake, and by his grace, forgive our sins. Give us hope and eternal life. Help us to move through a worldly holiday of excess to a worshipful Advent and Christmas. For Jesus’ sake, and through Jesus we pray. Amen.