I love everything about Christmas. I'm a sucker for Christmas movies, and whenever one ends I get nervous wondering when I can get my next hit of corny sentimentality. I start tapping into my Christmas playlist on Thanksgiving Day or at the hint of snow, whichever comes first.
My house transforms from "normal" to "holiday cozy" and I set aside my aspirations for a healthy diet in order to add the traditional treats that bring back special memories with each bite. Peppermint lattes, candy canes, gift giving, shopping, wrapping, parties, special events, even Santa--I love it all.
But, the challenge for me has always been to balance the secular frenzy with the spiritual recognition of what the holiday actually represents.
Recently, while watching the final moments of a Christmas movie; as the music started to play, snow started to fall, and the family hugged and kissed each other as they finally realized the importance of the love they felt, I had to stop and ask myself why I get so caught up in the good feelings of this particular season.
Am I setting celebrating Jesus aside while selling out for the trappings? Am I worshipping the "Christmas Spirit" instead of worshipping The Son and the Father who sent Him? Do I have to choose one over the other or can I have them both?
I realized that what I love about this season is the chance to escape from the harsh realities of life in order to, for a moment, focus on peace and goodwill. Even though stress can come while trying to accomplish everything on the list to create a "perfect" holiday for our families, the opportunity to focus on the needs and wants of others is a fresh relief of self focus we can all struggle with.
Christmas seems to represent a time to set aside the negative aspects of life for hope, peace and love, and that can't be a bad thing. The trick in combining the secular with the spiritual for me is in remembering the back story.
What we hunger for so badly is the hope for something better. Something real and eternal. Instead of the warm feelings we all feel for this brief season, we thirst for something we can tap into each day, each moment.
Instead of fighting between the parts of the season that seem to compete with the birth of Christ, it seems like we should be able to combine the two, while embracing the idea that what we are really celebrating is the idea that because of Jesus, we can have what we are searching for. We just need to see the source.
Because of Jesus:
* We have the hope of escaping the harsh realities of life that come as a result of the sin we all struggle with. Jesus was willing to leave the comforts of heaven to come into our world as a baby, to be surrounded by the cruelties of life and the fight with sin, in order to make everything right. Because of his death on the cross, people no longer have to express their sorrow for the things they do wrong by offering their sacrifices to God, but Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. Because of Him, we now need to pledge our allegiance to Him, live life according to His example, and look forward to the time He comes again and restores everything to the way life was before sin became a problem. Cue the snow and beautiful music.
*We have the peace that comes with actually having God indwell us. Because of Jesus' death, the price was paid for sin so we are no longer separated from God, with God showing Himself in physical places as in past, but now lives inside of us through the Holy Spirit. We have access to the peace and power of God every moment. This peace is not seasonal and isn't conjured up by by the "Spirit of Christmas", but is available through the Spirit of God.
*We experience the love that we long for. God didn't express the frustration with us that He deserves to have, as we turn from His instruction and all He has to offer in order to run after things that don't satisfy and do us harm. He sent a part of Himself, a Son that he loves with all His heart, to be treated terribly and even die for the people that often don't want to even recognize Him. He's so much more than Santa. His love is what we want to feel this time of year and is available all year long.
I have learned that I can enjoy all Christmas has to offer, as long as I realize where the love for Christmas comes from. It comes from celebrating a Savior being born as a baby and remembering that what we are experiencing is the ultimate birthday celebration. We can love everything about the celebration but can't forget who the celebration is for. His name is Jesus.
"The Word became flesh among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth." John 1:14