One thing that always bugged me about Christmas is how everybody wants everything.
I want a new TV. I want new clothes. I want this one huge thing that we can’t afford right now. I want to have a party. I want to cook dinner for thirty people, bake hundreds of cookies, buy gifts for the faceless and nameless needy, put up a Christmas tree and somehow find the time to decorate my house like you just walked into a Christmas village. And I want to do it all in three weeks, preferably with Christmas music playing the background at all times. Chestnuts and sleigh bells and fa-la-freakin’-la.
Every year there is more to want, and it bugs me because I often not only have to deal with my own wants, but as the leader of a household, I have to make sure other people’s wants happen, too.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tangle of Christmas. What will make me happy this year? What will make them happy? What’s going to survive the new year and still be around by July? Are our desires real?
Jesus gets lost in the wants every year. We all know he is there, know that he is the reason for the season. How I hate that phrase. It’s so trite, so easy to flick off the tongue and forget as soon as it’s said. There’s no better reason for the season, yet we mention Jesus like we would an unwilling birthday boy we are throwing a party for regardless of his desires. The party is really for us, and the fact that it’s his birthday makes us feel better about being excessive.
Is Christmas about us or about Jesus? After all, he came to us as a gift – shouldn’t we go over the top to celebrate that? The Bible is full of good reasons to celebrate, God-sanctioned festivals and extravagant partying that were built into the Israelites’ very way of life.
The truth is, Jesus is worth our extravagance. God’s grace is extravagant for us, and though we can never repay it, at Christmas it sure seems like everyone is trying. The trouble is that often our extravagance is not because of what Jesus did for us. We are being extravagant because we want to be.
So what do we do? How do we decipher what is real and what is merely feeding into our insatiable hunger for more?
For me, checking my heart is the first step. Am I thankful for what God has given me? Am I doing this for Jesus? Am I really celebrating Christmas the way it should be celebrated, the way he intended, the way he intends for me? How does what I am doing feel in my heart? Am I finding joy in this?
I have to say that some years I’m not. I’m not enjoying Christmas. It’s too much, too fast, too loud. I can’t catch up and it makes me cranky. What’s more, I haven’t seen Jesus once, and this is his party. I’m a total buzz kill at Christmas sometimes.
This year I’m okay. I feel calmer, feel less like certain things have to be done to have the perfect Christmas. It’s probably just because I’m getting older, and I’m tired of complaining about it. It could be that I feel like I have more of a handle on things, that I planned better. It could be because I’ve let a lot of things go that stress me out.
But maybe it’s also because I’m seeing it in a different light this year. This year more than ever, I’m seeing Christmas as a time to thank God for all that he has given us, a time to consider who I am in Christ and what that looks like – what God intends for me. I’m seeing Christmas as a gift, and an appropriate time to celebrate.
After all, this is Jesus’ party. This year, like every other, his life trumps all. This year, I think I’m really feeling it.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
John 1:1-16 (NLT)