As the holidays approach, we’re all trying to find True Meaning amid the spending and the gathering, the sugar highs and exhausted lows. I had been thinking about the coming Christmas season when I received this little list from a well-meaning friend. These are all good things, no doubt. But as I read the list, that annoying little red flag started waving at me. Will they truly make Christmas more meaningful? I hate to bah humbug, but there are some assumptions made here that I take issue with.
First, the introduction. Is the holiday season about “spending time with loved ones and friends”? I immediately thought of all those soldiers stationed overseas—or the elderly person who has outlived everyone they were close to. Can Christmas have any meaning for them? Is it really about other people? Or is Christmas more about the God who wants to spend time with us?
Let’s move on to “Start a tradition.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel burdened by the traditions I already have. Instead of enjoying them, they own me.
Take, for example, the baking. From my earliest memories, I had made the same rolled butter cookies every Christmas, slathering them with colored frosting and color sugar, red hots, or those round, tooth-breaking, silvery sugar b-b’s. Then I was diagnosed as insulin resistant, and put on a sugar-free diet. I knew I lacked the will power to leave those cookies alone, should I make them. So I didn’t bake cookies that year. I should have felt victorious, but instead I felt guilty! It took some serious soul-searching before I concluded that Christmas is not about traditions. (You can read my thoughts on this next week.)
“Donate to a favorite charity.” This is surely a good thing; we should be doing this all year long. But is this what makes Christmas meaningful? In this case, perhaps it’s the attitude that comes with the donation that matters. Are we giving out of gratitude for all God has given us? Or are we giving in an effort to feel good about ourselves?
“Practice random acts of kindness.” Again, this should be a lifestyle, not just a seasonal event. And again, is this something we’re doing so we can pat ourselves on the back and consider ourselves righteous? Or because the Spirit is fruitful in our lives?
“Make the season more personal.” I love how they suggest we find a “meaningful gift” to give—as if we aren’t already stressing about finding each person the perfect gift! And of course, it’s always good to appreciate and encourage others. But will this make Christmas more meaningful? Only if we connect our love of others with God’s love of us.
“Model the spirit of the season.” Setting a good example is important, especially with our children. It’s even Biblical. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” But what is this example? Where in this list is Jesus even mentioned?
He isn’t, not once. It’s a secular list. And the problem here is that the author is trying to find meaning in Christmas without Christ.
It can’t be done.
So how do we make the holidays more meaningful? Focus on Jesus. You’ve heard this before—read the Bible. Pray. Go to church. Talk about His coming with others. Set aside time to consider what this holy birth means for you personally, and corporately as a family, group of friends, or congregation.
Celebrate Jesus. Perhaps that celebration will include gathering together, participating in traditions, and being kind and generous. Just remember, we don’t do those things as an end in themselves. It’s all about Jesus. He is the meaning of Christmas.