It seems like the Christmas season started months ago.
I remember seeing red and green decorations when I was picking out candy for trick or treaters and the trees were just starting to shed their pallet of leaves. We now have a season of build-up to what I think is a widely agreed upon start of the Christmas season, Black Friday.
Growing up in the Church, the beginning of our holiday festivities started a few days after Thanksgiving with the beginning of Advent when our parents would talk about the importance of Jesus coming to earth, and as I got older, the importance of preparing myself for his second coming.
But these are not the days I remember growing up. Today, our Christmas holiday begins with stories of being trampled in lines waiting for a discounted television and a Thanksgiving holiday spent looking at sales papers and developing strategies for getting the best deals. Understand that I’m not casting any stones here. I’m just as guilty as the next guy.
We’re now a few days away from Christmas–Christ’s arrival. And, sadly, it’s about this time every year that I feel completely devoid of any Christmas joy. My thoughts aren’t filled with reflections of my family and friends that have passed on or even about those who might need a call or visit to brighten their spirits. No, I’m not proud to say that too often my thoughts are occupied with what gifts I have left to purchase or how “over” Christmas I am before it even gets here.
Imagine that. I am already “over” the celebrating of one of the most significant days in all the days of our universe. And, luckily, it’s usually around that thought that I begin to remember what Christmas is really all about.
I remember that the fact that I stray so far from the season of Advent and the Christmas story is the very reason that this season is so impactful. I remember that Christ came to earth to show us the meaning of the law and what a life of service to God should look like. And, ultimately, I remember that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I remember that Christ came because my spirit is prone to wander away from Him at the most inopportune times.
I’m not here to serve up cultural platitudes like, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” or “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” If you’re like me and find yourself excited for the prospect of a new year, excited for the craziness to be over, take a moment with me to stop and consider how joyous this occasion truly is. Our God, YHWH, came to earth to walk among us and show us the way, not as a King or even as a person of prominence, but he came as tradesman not unlike the men and women we see walking out of the power plant, the coal mine, or off the well‑pad.
I will undoubtedly, over the next few days, and especially as I watch the final Advent candle being lit on Christmas Eve, think about what we have made out of such a special, sacred holiday. I will promise myself to make this the last year that I carry on with such chaos and get back to celebrating Christmas in a way that is more edifying to my Spirit. And more likely than not, at this time next year, I will be writing a blog similar to this one. I might be reflecting on yet another year where I was caught up in gift buying and a new Star Wars movie coming out. But in the end, I hope that right about this time, I will have a moment where it all clicks into place for me, thatI find a hidden peace that passes all understanding, and I feel the power that those shepherds must have felt when they saw the star and the angels come down from heaven announcing the birth of our Lord and Savior to this world.
And, I hope, in that minute, you are all there to give me grace and share the season with me. Merry Christmas.