“Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given–when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.”
~ Joan Winmill Brown, American author
Our rush to Christmas often seems to be a mad dash to the finish line where upon there is a sense of collapse from exhaustion. Yet for a child, the expectation and anticipation of Christmas seems to move along at a snail’s pace. The chore of decorating for Christmas combines both a sense of obligation (keeping up with our traditions) and a bit of nostalgia as we find comfort in our cherished memories of past celebrations. The pulse of Christmas beats with a rising rhythm as December 25th arrives with hopes for a wonderful Christmas.
Yet, many find the Christmas season to be a difficult time of the year. Loss, pain and grief may cast dark shadows on the once joyful celebration. Amidst the pulsing flood of Christmas activities and state of being, the simple and powerful message of Christmas gets buried beneath the incessant messages promoted by Amazon, Walmart and Macy’s.
In a newly released book, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, Timothy Keller wrestles with the simple message of Christ’s birth in the face of blaring commercialism. He notes that Christmas has become two celebrations sharing the same day. For Christians, it is perhaps the second most holy day of the liturgical calendar after Easter. Believers reverence the incarnation in the miraculous birth of Jesus which serves as a reminder that God works in quiet and peace amidst the strife of the world. The rest of the world has reshaped Christmas into a secular mixture of sentimentality, commercialism/materialism, and winter celebration (Northern hemisphere.)
“The result is two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people at the same time; this brings some discomfort on both sides. Many Christians can’t help but to notice that more and more of the public festivals surrounding Christmas studiously avoid any references to its Christian origins. . . on the other hand, non-religious people can’t help but find the older meaning of Christmas keeps intruding uninvited, for instance through the music.”
One way to illustrate this is to imagine a beautifully wrapped Christmas present. The outside appears bright, colorfully adorned with ribbons and bows, while the actual gift of great worth lies inside. The gift within the paper, bows and box is the object of joy as is found within heart of the one who has provided the gift. Our culture has become excited about the wrapping paper and bows, and has come to ignore the beauty of God’s gift which lies within. A gift of the highest value, not a product of creation, but lying in cradle, the Creator.
Acceptance, love, peace and good will are worthy virtues for all the world. The angels’ message forever states the simple truth of Christmas, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Therefore, Christmas is as much about light amidst darkness, innocence in contrast to cruelty, and acceptance in a world of abandonment. It is a promise that looks to what is yet to be, while recalling the world that is, or was.
Our chaotic world needs a regular reminder of what’s truly important and value of our Christmas gift–Jesus, our Savior. The cherished Christmas Carol, “Away in a Manger” clearly states the message which God has for each of us and our world.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus look down from the sky, and stay by my side, till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay, close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.
Rev. Dr. Kregg F. Burris