“Keep Christ in Christmas!” These lawn signs will start to pop up everywhere as we are about to enter the Advent Season. And I can only say “Amen” to that!
But what does that actually mean? The answer might be obvious. Of course, it means that we are free to celebrate Jesus as the true Reason for the Season, His virgin birth, the angels, shepherds, wise men, the star. But that statement goes much deeper than that – or at least it should. It also means that we reflect on why Jesus came to earth in the first place. Again, the answer to this might seem obvious – to die for our sins so that we can be saved. And yes, that was the main reason, for sure. But He also came to show us how to live in a way that reflects the heart of our heavenly Father. He challenged stuffy man-made rules and laws, lived radically different from what society expected of Him, and mostly hung out with the scum of society, the outcasts. He loved, healed, cared for, and forgave. And He made it very clear that all who believe in Him as their Saviour are expected to live the same way. All of that is contained in that one statement on people’s front lawn.
Just imagine for a moment what it would have been like if Jesus celebrated His own birthday the way we do. “We have to get candles, lots of candles, Andrew”, He might have said. “We have to light up every area of this house. And Peter, go cut down that cedar in the back yard and put it over here in the corner. Then go down to the silversmith and get as many gold and silver decorations as you can and hang them on the branches – I want it to glitter! John, here is the money bag, go and buy presents for everyone, and make sure you get the gift receipts, in case people don’t like what they get. James, whose house are we going to tonight? Do we have a hostess gift, and does everyone have their ugly Christmas tunic on? Judas, how is your stonecutting of that bearded fat man coming along? Make sure you paint his tunic red and white when you’re done, and place a few mules in front of his chariot. That will look great on our roof top – almost as if he could fly!”
“Oh yeah, we will have to make some room for a little nativity scene. Let’s see… how about we put it over here under this window. Bartholomew, who taught you to do woodcarving? You made me look really chubby, and my mom – she looks like she has a halo on her head!”
Seems ridiculous, right? Thank God Jesus left a different example for us. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus loved spending time with people, He celebrated with them, and He did not refuse gifts. But much more than that, He extended love and grace to all who were desperate.
I read a quote recently that lays it out beautifully for us:
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” (Steve Maraboli)
That sounds much different than “get presents, go to parties, eat till you drop”, doesn’t it? It requires us to pause for a moment, lay aside our own ideas of what Christmas is all about, and intentionally seek out the mission Christ placed before us. It requires us to go out and actively look for opportunities and people who need to see “Christ in Christmas” through us. The list is not complicated – the orphaned, the widow, the foreigner, the poor, the lonely, the downcast. I am certain we can all come up with at least one name of a person whom we can serve and love this Christmas season. Why not invite foreign students to spend Christmas with you? Or how about taking a plate of cookies to that elderly woman down the street and having tea with her? Do you need to extend forgiveness and grace to anyone? Maybe you can buy a gift through a world relief organization and supply an orphan or a poor family with food and clothing. Whatever God is placing before you, don’t let the busyness of the season hinder you from showing the love of Jesus to your world. Let’s keep Christ in Christmas the way He has always intended it.