Holidays are Holy Days. They are celebrated because of the meaning behind them that we want to remember. Thus, I have a problem when the most celebrated days of the year are centered around celebrating a falsehood, making a holyday all about something that wasn’t and isn’t. Holydays should be all about rejoicing, celebrating, remembering, even mourning in repentance or remembrance, over truth.
Yes, I’m a Truth seeker. That’s why, even way before I was born again, we didn’t celebrate some make believe elf that was omniscient and omnipresent, that gave presents to only children who were sleeping and never saw him come, who had been “good”, and they could tell him (or any of the other 50 look-alikes) to get them whatever they wanted. (Though we do share the story of a man long ago, named Nicholas, who gave gifts to poor children who had nothing.) Truth is why I don’t even like celebrating the Incarnation of Emmanuel particularly on December 25th. (But reconcile it that it is likely near to the time that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.)
Now, the Incarnation of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus the Christ, is the GREATEST thing in the world to celebrate, so even if I know it is not the real day of His birth, I will take the opportunity to Celebrate with the rest of the world, as it is something I celebrate every day! If the world will at least give lip service to Him at this time, I’m all for an all out celebration of Him! But, if I’m celebrating the birth of our Savior, I don’t want that to get lost in, and just a cover-up for all the other trappings of “Christmas.” If He’s the “Reason for the Season”, let’s keep him the focus of the season.
There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts. He gave. But when our focus is on getting gifts, or the pressure to buy gifts you can not afford, because it’s expected, or the unrestrained spending on things you “want” or want your children to have, “because it’s Christmas”, the Reason for the Season has been lost. We give gifts because we love. We give gifts to show our thanks. Our focus for the season is on giving, giving out of the abundance of our love and gratitude, not to make a show, not to keep up/outdo everyone else, and not on getting gifts.
What makes the holiday? Is it the piles of presents? Is it the decor? Again, nothing evil in decorating. But when “it wouldn’t be Christmas without the tree”, the Reason for the Season has been lost. Decorations that can hold their place without taking prominence, can be fun and add a festive appearance, a constant reminder of what is coming, the REAL celebration. Can we celebrate as joyfully and in as much earnest, if there are no trees, no lights, no place to put them, no extra money to buy them? Decorate, but let decorations keep their place, as a backdrop only for the real celebration.
I pray as you enter this season of Celebrating our Lord and Savior Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us, you will keep Him the focus of your celebration, of the HolyDay. I pray you will Rejoice in Him! I pray you won’t get stressed out over how you’re going to buy everything you (think you) “need”, or the fact that you don’t have room (or money) to decorate “properly”, or that you don’t have “enough time” for all that “needs” to be done. Keep Christ at the Center. May He be your Celebration.
Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth, peace and good will toward men.
John Piper has a great article you may enjoy, How We See Christmas Symbols.