The images of Christmas are all around us – Santa in the shopping malls, decorated trees, houses covered in lights, people using their credit cards to purchase gifts, special festivals at schools (no longer called Christmas concerts), holiday plans for the week of Christmas when schools are out and day cares shut down, and radio stations playing Christmas music 24/7. Of course, none of this really relates to the original purpose or reason for that first Christmas in Bethlehem so many centuries ago.
As I sit here in my study in front of a warm fire in the wood stove that heats my office and study complex I think back a bit to my own childhood. Alright, more than a bit – more like ancient history. Back a half century when the center of the celebrations for Christmas was family not trips to warmer places or gifts of new technological gadgets that then absorb the rest of the day as you learn to play the game or use the electronic toy.
The focus was a special meal with the family all gathered and then the opening of the gifts – the majority of which were things that we needed and that we were excited to receive because we did need them. Often it was simply some new clothes, socks, underwear and a new set of pjs. Practical, functional, and purchased for cash – no credit cards and thus no increase in debt just to impress people or meet some social norm of today!
My how times have changed. And I don’t believe the change is for good. I believe that as born again believers we need to ask ourself what is it that we are really celebrating at this time of the year. Nevermind what society is doing, what the media is saying, what our friends at work are planning, or what the general trend is; what are WE really celebrating? And, does what we are planning to do with the time we have available really adequately express what we believe and hold dear in our hearts? Oh, more time with the family is good, larger family gatherings are healthy I am sure (except for the excessive eating), more time off from the hectic pace of our everyday work world is needed… but, do our plans really adequately express what we believe as born again Christians and are they focused in some way on celebrating what we believe?
Let me suggest that if you have less time for your daily devotionals; if you have less time focusing on worship and the assemblying of ourselves with other believers (it called – going to church); if we lose the rhythm and routine of daily prayer; if we are in constant motion preparing food, gifts, and the house and have lost the ‘be still and know that I am God’ part; then something is drastically wrong. Adjustments need to made after a quiet time of reflection so as to come back to the center and live life in line with your beliefs and not based on the expections of others and pleasures of society today.
Remember, we are born again believers and if we don’t focus on the real purpose and reason for Christmas and all the celebrating I am not sure who will. And, while I’m at it let me so bold as to suggest that one of our focuses at this time of the year (as it should be year-round) is to seek and save the lost. Afterall, that is why Jesus was born at Bethlehem – it was the start of His mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) which He then mandated to the Church to fulfill in our own day and age.
Do people look at the way you are celebrating and know you are a believer and follower of Him who said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men?”