Come let us

The Christmas season is fully upon us and everywhere you look there is magic - and gaudy decorations - in the air. Black Friday shopping still exists, but the internet has now cornered the market for savings and Amazon has this whole one-click shopping thing mastered.

If you consider yourself a Christian or even just a slightly religious person, then you understand that Christmas is more than just being in the spirit of giving or a holiday that gets the kids out of school for a couple of weeks. Christmas is about Jesus, because it is that time of year when we recognize His birth, His coming into the world as the Messiah to save us from our sins and to bring the hope of eternal life.

Now more than ever we realize that a large portion of our culture does not celebrate Christmas for those reasons. Honestly, I have no problem with that at all because no matter how the rest of the world chooses to acknowledge what Christmas is about, I know that it is about Jesus and I get the chance to share that truth with others. I know the history of Christmas - December 25 is a day selected by the early church to celebrate and recognize the birth of the coming King and that we really don't know when Jesus was actually born. Not that this takes away from our celebration of Him, it just helps to understand the background. I mean, we celebrate Jesus everyday, right?

And let's be honest for a minute. There are many Christians out there who get a little too territorial when it comes to Christmas. What do I mean? Think about it - they wage a version of holy war if department store workers say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"; town councils are angrily assaulted if a nativity scene is not allowed on public property; and don't even think about denying them the right to wear their Christmas sweaters and vests to work (That last one I kind of make up, but to be honest, have you seen some of those sweaters? I wish they were banned!).

Then there is the whole Christmas time celebrations, especially the ones sponsored at church. I grew up going to Christmas cantatas and have wonderful memories of the music and the festivities that I witnessed over the years. Who knew that Mary could sing so well after having a baby with no epidural? The way that the stage at church can be rearranged to look like a barn complete with live animals is amazing and some of those set designs look like they came from Hollywood. Lighting candles with the house lights out completes the "Silent Night" effect. Don't forget all of the decorations! The Christmas lights and the big Frazier fir tree (because those are the best), complete with miles of garland, add a beautiful finishing touch.

We wouldn't dare dream of celebrating Christmas any other way. Besides, this is how we've been doing it for years and years. Yet in the midst of all of this celebrating and decorating and singing and giving, it seems as if we have lost some of our focus on what Christmas is really about. And it is more than just a manger scene that we recreate on stage - this is about the Messiah, the Son of God, whose soul purpose for coming into this world was to die a grizzly death because that was the only way to pay for our filthy sinfulness. 

Looking on social media sites, I see so many pictures and videos of Christmas plays and musicals complete with virtual back-slaps for what an amazing job we all did on them this year. I shudder to think how much money our churches are pouring into these productions! And yes, let us celebrate together with music and festivities, but let us also make sure that we are so very careful that we aren't too excited about how amazing we are in the midst of trying to point people to who Jesus is.

The big danger when we celebrate Christmas in extravagant ways is that we invite others to come and adore US instead of Jesus. We fight to "Keep Christ in Christmas" (as if anyone could actually steal His name away) and we strive to have the biggest and best Christmas show ever without realizing that all of this may actually do very little in pointing people to the object of our celebration.

I don't want you to read this and think that I am going all Scrooge on you or that I am trying to dictate how you celebrate. But I do want you to sincerely evaluate what your focus is on this time of year. Perhaps you and your family can discover an Advent reading plan from the Bible that you can read together each day. Or maybe you can choose to give some gifts this year as a family to worthy causes instead of wrapping another present for under the tree. Whatever you choose to do, strive for your focus to be on Jesus.

And if you know others who don't care about all of that, love them just the same. They aren't doing Christmas "wrong," they just aren't seeing it for what it truly is. Maybe they are observing Christmas as a reaction to how so many of us have tried to make it an agenda and not as a time to worship. Remember, it is Christmas, not Christm-US.


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