The fact that the world has ‘stolen’ our Christian holy days and turned them into commercial extravaganzas has been one of my pet peeves for a very long time. Walk up and down the aisles full of Christmas decorations in any store and what do you see? Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and Disney characters galore. What do any of these have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? Look at the outdoor decorations in your neighbourhood. You might see a nativity scene, particularly in front of a church, but where is Christ in most of those decorations? What does an inflatable penguin or puppy have to do with Christmas? I don’t know either, but you can get one for just $19.98 CAD at Walmart!
Don’t even get me started on that stupid Elf on a Shelf! Whoever thought that one up did nothing but add more meaningless stress to an already over-stressed season for anyone who bought into it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total Grinch! I love Christmas lights. After all, it was Christ Himself who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
Though standing a tree in the house and decorating it with lights and ornaments often strikes me as a weird tradition, I also love the Christmas tree that stands in front of our living room window. Many of its decorations point to the true meaning of Christmas. That’s very intentional. It’s one small attempt at reclaiming Christmas.
Although a beautiful nativity scene also has a place of prominence, our home isn’t completely devoid of the fun side of Christmas. Santa and one of his reindeer stand atop a cabinet in the living room. Surrounded by teddy bears and twinkly lights, he’s checking his list and preparing for his round the world gift giving flight, but it’s the little Santa bowing over the manger on another shelf that holds greater meaning for me.
So what is the real meaning of Christmas? “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” an angel told some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem that night so long ago; a night that would forever change the world. (Luke 2:8-10 NIV) That night the mighty Creator of the universe chose to come to earth in the form of a tiny babe, to live among us, and to show us who He really is. That night, He began His journey to the cross where He would pay the penalty for all our failures and give us the gift of eternal life with Him. There is no better gift than that! It costs nothing but the willingness to humble ourselves and surrender to His leading in our lives. That’s what Christmas is really all about! That’s true love and that’s why I want to reclaim Christmas. I can’t take it back from the masses who celebrate by overindulging and running up their credit card bills, but I can keep the love of Christ at the centre of my Christmas season.
When we were teaching in Japan, I asked one of my adult students why so many Japanese people celebrate the birth of a God they don’t believe in. “We love to decorate and we love to shop,” she told me. Perhaps that’s why most people celebrate a holy day that has no real meaning to them.
Why do you celebrate Christmas? What does it mean to you?