What does Christmas mean to you? Is it the music that begins on the radio the day after Halloween? Could it be the Black Friday sales that offer discounted prices the day after Thanksgiving? When we think of Christmas, what comes to mind...the lights on the houses, decorations on the trees, food on the tables?
The pastor of my church during childhood once said that he wished it could be Christmas all year round. Be careful what you wish for, pastor, it might just happen. The stores and radio stations begin their Christmas season earlier each year. And I can honestly say that as often as the holiday music get’s played for almost 2 full months, there is a part of me that has had enough of it before December 25th actually shows up.
The Christmas that my pastor wished for all year long had nothing to do with the lights, decorations, gifts, tv specials, and radio music. He was wishing for a Christmas that was centered on the original meaning of the holiday.
Memories are a tricky thing. The mind often creates as much of our memory as it does recording actual events. Compare memories of times from the past with friends/family, and notice how the story is different depending on who is telling it. From my memory, the pastor was kind of a stoic and sometimes a grumpy man. Rarely did he smile and he seemed to always be pointing a finger at us. His wish was exactly that...an idealistic dream where everyone shared kindness to others and put the good of the whole on a higher pedestal than their self-centered thrones. He wanted to see yearlong generosity towards others without expectation of something (or even expected results) in return. He desired that people would stop holding grudges and move forward in the freedom of forgiveness. At times, I see myself in him. I too ask for God to help me love and forgive in my moments of idealism.
While the ideal year-long Christmas is something to strive for, in reality, it never existed. There has never been a time when everything was just right. God created and he saw that it was ‘GOOD’, not perfect. Jesus came because we CANNOT get it right. His love and grace was demonstrated in his actions toward people like us who want control, which seek personal affirmation, who want a clean-cut line between right and wrong, and that prefer to point out the negatives in others than face our own imperfections. If we got the kindness, generosity, stewardship of creation, and the forgiveness of others down pat, we’d still be sinners who have turned from God and desperately need of his love and mercy.
While I believe Christmas is far too commercialized, it is still a season that warms hearts. Though too much emphasis is put on gifts, at least there is still compassion to give gifts. And while we lose some of the skills for building and nurturing relationships through the technology of email, texting, and social media, we still gather together on the holidays. In every situation, we can find blessings and curses. Whatever it is that we seek, we will find.
The world was full of negativity when Christ was born, when he lived, and when he died. Yet in the midst of that darkness, he was a light of promise and hope. Not everyone sees that light through their eyes. So this Christmas season, let us also be lights of Christ that help overpower darkness. This Christmas, let’s not be satisfied with how everyone else sees the world. This Christmas, let’s step out in faith and trust God’s promises by giving him the glory and loving and sharing mercy to our neighbors with Christ’s help. May your Christmas season and New Year be blessed. Amen.