This time of year has always been my favorite.
I love the shows on tv, the songs on the radio, the displays in the stores. I love pretending it’s colder outside than it actually is. I love seeing the trees go up in the malls and the lights go up in the neighborhoods.
Resistance is futile. No matter how I try to fight it, I am totally sucked in by all the pomp and commercialism that surrounds this time of year. So much so that to a certain extent, I've held this season as something sacred.
For as long as I can remember, this time of year has always brought with it the sense of something magical and extraordinary. But what’s alarming about this is that it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Christ.
I didn’t attend church at all (not even the obligatory Christmas Eve Service) until I was out of college, so none of the feelings that I’ve historically gotten from this season have been driven by religion, much less an actual love for the Lord. This is indicative of how, as a culture, we have managed to take what is true - that there is something sacred and extraordinary and miraculous about this season - and we've made it false. We've made it false by attributing those feelings to things that are neither eternal or real, instead of placing our affections in their rightful place during the Christmas season: on Christ.
Growing up, Christmas was never about Christ for my family, however we had lovely Christmases. Celebrations filled with good food, family, gifts and laughter. And although I cherish those memories to this day there was a complete absence of Christ in the celebration.
Now that I am a part of the Christian sub-culture, what I find even more alarming than the complete absence of Christ during this season that I use to know, is the false veneer of Him that can thrive even among us who identify as Christians if we fail to rigorously pursue truth during this time of year.
The false veneer of Christ is even more dangerous than the complete absence of Christ because it deceives us into believing that we know something we don’t know, that we are something we aren’t.
One of the things I’m constantly on guard against is our boys growing up with fond and beautiful memories of Christmas Eve services and Advent calendars and nativity scenes and all the other religious trappings of the Christmas season, yet lacking a real, deep, and sincere understanding of the Gospel at a Christmas.
Is it possible that we in the church celebrate so much around Christ during this season that we completely miss Him in the midst of it?
I know I've done it. It is so easy it is to allow this time of year to become centered on things that are temporary - things that promise a fulfillment that they simply cannot deliver.
I've pondered this for the last several years as I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with my Christmas status quo, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve set my expectations much too low. After all the baking and the buying, when the preparations are over and all the parties have been attended - each year, I leave this season disappointed because I have trained my heart on things that can never fulfill. I fail to remember the Gospel at Christmas.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. .. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
Go ahead and breathe those verses in like a breath of fresh air.
There's a type of indwelling fulfillment that only the Gospel brings.
So as the days tick away drawing us nearer and nearer to Christmas morning, don't neglect the Gospel this season. Read those verses one more time before you carry on with your day...
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
The audacity of what God did on Christmas night some 2000 years ago should continually astound us, but after years and years of hearing the story and singing the songs, we’ve somehow managed to let the simplicity and absurdity of the story become rote.
God became man.
He took on flesh in the form of the smallest and weakest among us. Yet the power of Christmas does not merely reside in the miraculous birth of this child, but in the atoning death that He would one day die. Not just a martyr's death, but an atoning death, which once resurrected would redeem a fallen world and reclaim the hearts of sinful man. Set your hope on anything less than that this Christmas season and December 26th will bring with it a frail hollowness as the holiday hype fades away. But the indwelling fulfillment of the Gospel carries on - even into the long shadows of the January landscape.
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