What is Christmas?
This year is going to be very different for us during Christmas for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it will be Jessica’s and my first year spending Christmas away from our American families and with our Haitian family. It will be Sophie’s 2nd Christmas, but I don’t think her first one really counted (she was not even 2 months old yet). On top of that, we will be about a month away from welcoming our son into the world. One of the really cool things about it is that we can decide how we will celebrate Christmas with our children, and the first thing I think we need to answer is the question, “What is Christmas?” I also need to make sure and plug our “Christmas” page before I get too far into the blog. Make sure you check this page out if you are trying to figure out a Christmas gift for someone who really has everything because a donation in his or her name to an orphanage might be the perfect thing to give!
When I say we are going to answer the question, I do not mean literally in that we could just say it is Jesus’ birthday. What I mean is, what do we want this time to look like compared to what it is. Let’s be honest, in America, Christmas has become something that it should have never come to be. We know this because when we went shopping for Halloween candy we had to pass Christmas decorations to get there. We know this because if you go to any store starting at 4:00 pm on Thanksgiving and lasting until Dec. 30, you better be prepared to wait in line or to sift through already sifted “sale” racks. We know this because we see “50% off” signs on things like dogs that dance to Jingle Bells and all of a sudden think that $19.99 for that stuffed animal is a great price. We know this because even car dealerships have jumped in on the madness like purchasing a car for someone for Christmas is a thing now (and I guess it is). We know this because every movie that comes on television (we don’t have cable but I remember when we did) for the next month will have some sort of big disaster or misunderstanding but will end in friends and family laughing and singing Christmas carols together because some sort of “magical” ending has come about. And finally, we know this because Target and other retailers have made a fortune on selling “designer ugly Christmas sweaters” that we can wear once a year to the inevitable ugly Christmas sweater party (though I have actually never been to one).
I know that sounded like a rant, but none of those things really bother me, they have just become a part of a little over 1/12th of our American calendar and I have no idea how. How did Christmas turn into this? I said before that we are going to be in Haiti this Christmas, and I have a pretty good idea of how our Christmas is going to go. We are going to go to church for a huge party on Christmas Eve, wake up the next morning and make Cinnamon rolls for the kids, Have a huge lunch consisting of rice and beans and chicken, give the kids their stockings, watch a Christmas movie, do a birthday party for Jesus, and go to bed. If our kids get some beef jerky and candy they will be thrilled (even though all of our sponsors know they will be getting more!), and that is a good thing. When I write that, I think about a Christmas without materialism, and it makes me happy that we will be there to experience it. At the same time, however, there is a little sadness that our kids (and almost every other Haitian for that matter) will never experience the type of Christmas we had growing up. Our Christmases were a blast every year and we made some awesome memories. The excitement on Christmas Eve with family, when we just knew we could see Santa’s sleigh through my grandparent’s window, not being able to sleep the night before, leaving out cookies for Santa, and getting up the next morning to see our gifts were all things that were a great part of my childhood. I remember always wondering why everyone else gave me presents except for my parents until I realized who left our presents out on Christmas Day. So, I am in no way saying which Christmas is better, it is not up to me to decide that for anyone but my family. But I do want to talk about what Christmas is.
Through all the decorations, the holiday sales, the gift giving, the parties, the family time, and the food Christmas has never actually changed. We have changed how we celebrate it, but Christmas is still a celebration of one of the two most sacrificial acts of love and humility we will ever experience…The beginning of our salvation! I understand the symbolism of gift giving at Christmas time and how it is supposed to remind us of the gift of Jesus coming to earth, but come on, do we not go a little overboard there? The truth is, gift giving is not the best symbolism of what Jesus did for us. Do we really believe that GOD, when He sent His Son to live in this sinful imperfect place, was thinking, “I hope one day everyone celebrates my Son’s humility and love by spending 100s of billions of dollars on food and gifts for each other as a symbol of what He is doing for them.” I feel like the only way we are truly following His example is by paying off all of the debt that we accumulated on Christmas presents. I do not want this to sound harsh or like I am against giving gifts in general (I actually love giving gifts – especially to Jess and Sophie), but what I am arguing for is for us to think about what would most glorify GOD during this time. Giving nice, sensible gifts to our friends and family to show our love for them is great. Getting together for parties and to fellowship and celebrate with others is a great way to spend this time. Giving of our time, our expertise, and our money is vital to teaching our children and ourselves why Jesus came. At the center of it, let us do this one thing together right now:
Let’s keep Christ in the center of everything!
I would have said, “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas” but it sounded a little corny for a bolded line. But let’s make sure He is in the middle of everything that we do, that He dominates our conversation, and that we spend time in His Word. Let’s think through what we do, where we spend our money, and how we spend our time and make sure it glorifies our Savior is and should always be the object of our worship and celebration. Think about it, the time of the year when we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the miracle of man and GOD found in one person, and the only possible perfect sacrifice and advertisements, malls, and shopping dominate our culture. Let’s share the love of Christ with people with our words (and I don’t mean correcting people when they say “Happy Holidays”) and through our actions and let’s make sure people see the hope that we have in our Savior.
Finally, as a way to help out with that, a few years ago Jess and I wrote a Bible Study together that we do each year as a personal thing and we thought we would share it with you if you are looking for something to help you keep your focus on Christ this December. Just click below for a pdf file of our Bible Study: