TIS THE SEASON
It’s the Christmas season, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve waited all year, in longing anticipation for it to come again and it’s finally here! I’m not so sure you grasp the gravity of this situation. I’m not so sure I’ve made my point clear. Folks, I really, really LOVE Christmas! Year after year, like a wide-eyed child, I revel in all the happenings of the holiday. It’s a thrill to the senses! There’s an aura in the air- a special kind of magic. Christmas brings a certain indescribable feeling that emanates from the memories, love and laughter shared. There’s an innocence and a peace- a sense of simplicity and substance. We even manage to show a little extra “goodwill” toward our fellow man when the calendar flips to December.
This season will always be precious in my eyes. We’re ringing in a holiday that can’t be replicated or replaced! I’ll tell you what… keep the other eleven months... just give me Christmas! On Thanksgiving morning (when Santa Claus makes his appearance in the parade) I crank up that Christmas dial and dive into the festivities; and from my first bite of Thanksgiving dinner to the last tick of the clock on December 25th, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” for me!
I don’t have one particular reason “why” I get so nostalgic. I just do. Perhaps I’m a bit of an “old soul.” Perhaps I’m just a little bit crazy. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that if I could jump into the scene on a Christmas card, I would. Picture it… beautiful lantern-lit streets lined with snow-covered churches, quaint cottages, toy stores and candy shops... cheerful neighbors waving at each other as they pass by with their shopping bags… little children ice skating on the pond or the family in the window decorating their Christmas tree. What I wouldn't do to live in that Christmas world!
I cherish every moment I can in December. I get a thrill out of sitting down in front of a holiday movie just to dig through piles of paper and bags of bows. I relish the challenge of wrapping every present just right. I look forward to giving and exchanging gifts, nestling them under the tree at the perfect angle (like I’m prepping for a holiday photo shoot). To be honest, I don’t even mind shopping (as long as I’m lucky enough to find a parking space). I cling to the memories made and I’m driven by the joy of memories yet to come- time spent with family and friends- dinners and desserts- moments shared with loved ones that come so seldom. When I look closely, I can still see the magic of Christmas. The world seems just a little bit kinder and we learn to think of others more than ourselves (well, except you, “Black Friday” shoppers. Just stay home with your families and forget the $100 flat screen TV)!
Anyway, I digress. Did I mention that I love Christmas? This is the one time every year when I really don’t mind hearing the same song 1,000 times in a day (well, unless it’s “Santa Baby” or “Last Christmas”). I look forward to the tunes that pump out of every radio station- in every place- at every time; from the “fun and nostalgic” to the eternally meaningful. Everything about this holiday plays a role in my “minor” obsession, but at the end of the day, Christmas will always draw my heart homeward; to a warm house, a warm meal and a warm-hearted family. Christmas draws my mind to simpler times. I still jump at the chance to decorate the tree with my family, admiring every special ornament and reminding ourselves of when and where it came from. I still salivate at the smell of fresh baked cookies or a fresh “bird” in the oven. Folks, when I say I love Christmas, I mean I really... love... Christmas! Still, we all grow up. The years tick by and this holiday seems to come fast and leave even faster. My mind says “cherish it.” The child in me says “toys and trees.” My spirit says “don’t forget.” Don’t forget what?
Well, there’s another focal point of the Christmas season. I’m fairly certain it's where we get the "Christ" to go with our "mas." We have a birthday to celebrate! I never want to let myself forget that little “Christmas child” who grew up to be my King and my Savior. I know the true “reason for the season,” in my heart and in my mind. I know that it’s far more than a bumper sticker or a billboard. It goes well beyond those fateful words, “Merry Christmas,” we're afraid to say in public anymore. It’s more than our gestures of generosity or even the love we push ourselves to show to others (with that once-a-year holiday gusto).
Christmas exists to draw every eye, every mind, every heart and soul back to that little manger in Bethlehem, but I bet I don’t need to sit here and tell you all the details. The Bible tells the tale. You’ve heard the holiday sermons and many of you know the story well enough to recite it on your own. As a believer, you know to keep Christ in Christ-mas. I don’t need to recite “What Child is This,” “Joy to the World,” or “The First Noel.” You remember the reason for the season. Time after time, year after year, we step into church in December with a goal; to remain vigilant and focused on the Christ-child, and to remember His story through the busy fog of an otherwise distracting holiday. Yes, it will always be important to stay in tune with the Christmas story, but what matters more (SO much more) than the knowledge of that story is the purpose and message behind it. What will we do with the Christ child?
Now, I see nothing wrong with participating in the busyness of the Christmas season. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the ambience. I see nothing wrong with the fun, the fellowship or even a bit of the craziness, but they’re all just acts. They’re all just hollow, routine practices of the world. Christmas is a season with a very specific purpose. Yes, striving to remember the birth of Jesus is incredibly important, but remember why He was born. It wasn't so children could reenact the story on stage. It wasn't so we had a nice design for all our decorations. On that first Christmas, salvation was born; He showed up in the flesh, and those few lucky figures we set up around our nativity set each year had their eyes and their worship fixed on the God of the heavens laying in a cradle. He is our Savior, Christ, the Lord. His arrival wasn’t in a ball of light, an earthquake or a pillar of fire. It was quiet, on a cold night. What can this teach us? Slow down! The birth of Jesus brought peace into a rapid, selfish, frantic world. Jesus IS the reason for the season, but He brought with Him a purpose, to save; to leave peace with those who rest in God’s favor. I believe that He arrived in a lowly, quiet form in order to tell us…”slow down, take pause and rest in me.” The shepherds ceased to tend their flocks to enjoy Him. The animals ceased their noise to honor Him. The God of all creation came quietly in the night, in a cave, in a little town called Bethlehem.
Slow down. Take pause. Don’t let this season pass you by. Yes, enjoy the nostalgia. Sing the carols, trim the tree, decorate the cookies and grab your ugliest Christmas sweater, but focus. Watch your movies, brave the shopping malls, cook the goose and wrap up the whole season in a big red bow, but take pause. Be silent. Be humbled. Be seeking, always seeking. Remember the purpose even more than the birthday. Remember, wise men still seek Him.
Each year, I am brought to tears and humbled by the words of “O Holy Night.” It draws me back to the manger and ultimately, the child who now sits at the right hand of God as my Savior. A beautiful baby met a gruesome death, but through that death, a glorious rebirth and a perfect salvation were given to all who trust in Him. Find moments to experience God’s Son this season, on your own, away from the noise of life; and in the silence- listen close with humility and you may just hear the voice of that very Savior saying, “remember me. Remember why I came.”
“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born…”