Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Christmas Is Important

I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of the Christmas season. It has been going on for so long I can’t remember the beginning. Stores have had decorations up now for months. We have had endless messages of shopping and how Christmas is impacting the economy and thus our future. I have one website that sends me three email sale notices a day. Most of us are either elbowing our ways through the malls and stores to buy presents or driving up our bandwidth usage as we shop online. We spend an incredible amount of time wrapping those very presents. Charities know that contributions go way up during this Christmas season, so the reminders and opportunities to impact people’s lives are laid before us. On top of all this there are the parties, the school programs, church programs, the food to bake, the people to see and the Christmas movies that have to be watched. The stuff of Christmas has crowded out Christmas, even sadly to say, in some churches.

Real Christmas is a message that is lost on today’s world. It is a message that doesn’t sit well with the more, more, more atmosphere of today’s consumer driven society. It is a message that doesn’t play well on our 24/7 news cycle. It doesn’t gather the headlines or attract our attention. Which is precisely why Christmas is important.

Christmas is about preparation. It is the time of the year where we prepare for Jesus coming. The right focus is Jesus first coming in Bethlehem and his second coming at the end of time. Preparation means self-reflection and examination. It is an old practice, a discipline that the world has forgotten. It is looking at who Jesus is, what he has done. Examination is also about looking at ourselves. It is seeing what we have done, and how we have failed. Preparation is the process of beginning to set our hearts aright.

Christmas is about insignificant people doing incredible things. Movies are filled with superheroes doing super-human things. The Bible and the Christmas story is not that story. It is filled with ordinary people, who have ordinary flaws, who by the guidance and blessing of God do incredible things. It is not about how good they are, or how good we are, but what God does through them. Christmas is the story of Elizabeth having a child in her old age. It is Mary, facing the world alone. It is Joseph shaken from his set world to care for this women and his Lord. Yes they were incredible things, but the people weren’t incredible, they were ordinary. The incredible part is from God.

Christmas is about travels that would make today’s travelers shake to their very core in fright. It was a long, hard difficult walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a journey with a young woman who was 9 months pregnant. Nothing about this trip was easy. At a time when we sing of peace on earth, good will toward man, we are shaken by the murder of children by Herod. It is the story of a difficult panicked trip to Egypt. This is not a story that is remembered in our days of comfortable cars and air travel.

Christmas is about the struggle to do the right thing, not which is easy or seems proper. Looking at the world today, it is not hard to see that the right thing today means what will benefit the economy, or benefit that person. Looking at Washington DC and one gets in the impression that the right thing to them means being re-elected. This story is about doing the right thing, not which is convenient, not which benefits that person, but doing the right thing. Joseph sets all aside, he tosses convenience and propriety out the window to do what God asks and desires.

At the climax of a Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown frustrated by the stuff of Christmas and wondering if anyone knows why Christmas is important asks “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?” Linus walks to the center of the stage, the lights descend and he speaks: