I have a very close friend who is adamant that all the ways we celebrate Christmas have nothing to do with Christ Himself. To be honest, she’s right. Snow and evergreen trees, lights and packages, red and white, tinsel and eggnog truly have nothing to do with the humble birth of Yeshua, nor do we have any idea what day of the year He was actually born on.
For some time, I let this thought color my Christmas festivities and cast shadows of doubt on my celebratory mood. I felt a deep guilt that I did not spend His birthday celebration giving to Him exclusively. However, the more I have ruminated, the more I have grown to realize that as a Christian, His birth is indeed a cause for celebration. And it doesn’t matter when I celebrate; one somewhat arbitrary winter holiday date does not make a difference either way. The thing is, the longer I have walked with the Lord, the more difficult I find it to separate anything I do from thoughts of Him. I am obsessed, you might say, and while I can never repay His gift with my efforts, I can give Him my whole mind, heart, and soul and let Him direct my steps both on Christmas and on every other day of the year.
I have been thinking lately about the many times in the Old Testament where God directed the Jewish nation to set up memorial stones, tangible objects both to help them remember and to spur discussion with their children about some act of deliverance or rescue God had performed for the nation. How, you ask, does this relate to Christmas? Well, while the outward, worldly part of the celebration of Christmas may have nothing to do with Jesus at all, just as a stone is merely a stone, nonetheless for me, the whole Christmas season is a sort of memorial stone: a time of year that I set aside to intentionally study the Word specifically for the purpose of meditating on what it means to have Immanuel: God with us.
You see, for me, Christmas is really about Christ. I find it a useful exercise to use December as a time to ponder the unfathomable humility of the Almighty Creator of the universe, the uncontainable God of all, clothing himself in the very stuff of His creation and humbling Himself as a human baby who had to learn to walk, to talk, to focus His eyes — all for the love of sinners like me. I am invariably abased by such reflections and find myself falling more deeply in love with this Savoir who laid aside His infinite nature for a few decades to clothe Himself in the finite fabric of His own creation, to walk in the dust, and to eventually be tortured, maimed, and nailed to a tree — a tree that He created by nails cast from metal He designed — and to hang dying there, spat upon and rejected by the very sin-twisted bits of creation He fashioned after His own image, those whom He loved enough to offer Himself as ransom and rescue.
Evergreen trees may have nothing to do with Jesus, but seeing the tree every day in December makes me think of the other tree with hacked-off branches that He was hung upon like some gruesome ornament, a callous and hateful display of Rome’s might to the subjugated Jewish people and an undeniable expression of His own words: “Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Twinkling lights may have little to do with the Son of man, but when I see them, I am reminded that the Light of the world came willingly into the darkness, a direct invasion of enemy occupied territory as a sort of special forces seek and rescue mission.
The gifts and wrapping may bear no resemblance to Christ, but with each gift I give, I am reminded of the one Gift I can never repay nor the Giver that I cannot out-give.
With each present I wrap, I recall that He was first wrapped in swaddling cloths and later wrapped in a shroud — the very shroud of shame and disgrace that I deserve to wear. And as I watch the children tear off the wrapping paper on Christmas morning, I cannot help but remember that He threw off the wrapping of that shroud on that glorious day when He rose again.
It is my prayer for you, dearest, that you will find more of the Lord in your Christmas and in every day of the year to come. May His love pierce you and animate you, separating completely the old self and crucifying it so that the new self in Christ can live freely, fully led by the Spirit of Life. May His life surge within your heart, may your mind be fully wrapped up in thoughts of Him, and may His love lead you to deeper commitment and love for God, to greater acts of selflessness and sacrifice toward others, and to longer and more intimate conversations with Him. May your whole being thirst for the Living Water and hunger for the Bread of Life, and may you long for more and more of Him and His Word.