What is the true meaning of Christmas?
Our culture has lost its direction. Everyone wants to celebrate Christmas, but at times we seem to forget what it is we’re celebrating.
We want the decorations, the food, and especially the gifts, but somehow that isn’t enough. So we eat more and spend more and we’re still not satisfied.
Is Christmas something we can buy?
Or, shunning materialism, we turn to tradition. We put up the tree, decorate the house, bake the cookies. We listen to Christmas music, wear Christmas sweaters, host get-togethers with friends and family. We may even make our gifts by hand.
Is Christmas something we create?
We may celebrate Christmas at church, singing familiar carols, listening again to the story of Jesus’ birth, lighting our candles while the lights are turned low.
Is Christmas found at church?
Most of us believe Christmas has something to do with our hearts. Just listen to the morals of nearly every holiday special on TV. The Grinch can’t steal it, Charlie Brown’s sincere tree can’t ruin it. Intangible. Elusive. But we want it so very, very much.
Christmas is all about Jesus. Immanuel. God with us. Yet somehow, the holiday season has become the one time when it’s nearly impossible to slow down, lean in to God, and listen for his still, soft voice in our hearts.
This year Pete and I are trying something a bit different. With our kids married with families of their own, with my dad no longer here to be part of our holiday, we feel more free to ignore our family tradition and try something new. We consciously decided to scale back on the outward trappings of Christmas.
We still put up the outside lights—a simple string of white icicles hanging from the eaves. We still chose gifts for our friends and family (although I had my shopping done and packages mailed by early December). But we did not decorate much inside the house. We did not drag out the tree and boxes of ornaments. I have done no holiday baking. We’re only going to two parties, both this weekend, and neither at our house. We did not mail Christmas cards, and while I did put together a family letter, we sent it as a .pdf attached to an email.
Instead of being buried under a pile of chores, I’m spending more time in prayer and reflection. What has God taught me this year? Have I been faithful in all he’s asked me to do? How is he changing me to be more like him? How can I better share his love with others? What does it mean that Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth, and how does that fit with the dismal headlines I read every day? What does God want to say to me?
If someone asked you, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” how would you answer them?