Let me start by telling you that I love Christmas time. I love the excitement, the hustle and bustle, the good will that seems to pervade for this month where it sometimes seems to lack in the 11 other months.
However, each Christmas I find myself increasingly troubled by the season. It is hard to put my finger on why. I suppose it started with Christmas music. My favorite kind of music is Christmas music. Every year on my birthday, I take all my Christmas cd’s out to the minivan so I can start playing them. And my birthday is October 4th! My husband and kids humor me, though, and listen along with me. I start this early so that I can enjoy all my favorite albums. I like the Muppets, and the Carpenters, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. My favorite is probably Perry Como. Well, maybe “favorite” is not the best description, but it is the album that makes me the most nostalgic. Then, somewhere around the first of November, we all start to hear Christmas music in the stores. Which I love even though I know that as much as I love it, there are people who loathe it! (Grinches and Scrooges, all of them.) But Christmas music just makes me happy. And then, joy of joys, the week of Thanksgiving the local easy listening station starts to play Christmas tunes 24-7! Finally, the rest of the world catches up to my Christmas party, which has been rocking along since the first week of October.
And I love all Christmas music- the songs about Santa, the songs about winter and bells and snowmen, the ones about a baby born in a stable- all of them. But the last few years, Christmas music has made me a little sad, too. And while I still love Christmas, the season has started to make me a little sad as well. Here’s why. It’s Jesus. I am a Jesus person. I guess from the outside I would be called “very religious”, but I don’t really see myself as religious at all. I believe with all my heart and my entire intellectual mind as well that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He lived in earthly form 2000 years ago, that He lives today within me as the person of the Holy Spirit. I worship Him, serve Him, believe fully in Him. Is that religious? I have never really liked that word. I just see it as loving God a lot.
So anyway, why should Christmas make me a sad? Because this time of year, there seems to be an uneasy truce that occurs between the believing world and the unbelieving world. And every year, it seems a little bit more hypocritical to me. For one month, people who normally would be put off at the mere mention of the name “Jesus” are singing along with “Mary Did You Know?” and “O Holy Night”. O Come Let Us Adore Him? Really? I suppose the world can accept the notion of adoring a baby in a manger, after all what could be more harmless and adorable?
But then, after January 1st, the bulk of the world packs away the nativity scenes and packs away our notion of Jesus as well. It is safer that way- to pack away Jesus while He is still a babe in a manger, still beautiful and safe and sweet. Here though, lies the problem. Jesus did not stay in that manger. He grew into a man who presented a lot of ideas that made His contemporaries very uncomfortable. And modern day contemporaries uncomfortable as well! Like that He is the Son of God. Like that He is the only way to access God. Like that He is God. Like that all of mankind is lost without Him. Oy, vay. Couldn’t He have stayed small and sweet and adorable in the manger? So much easier to look at the cute little baby Jesus and not think about the great, big, controversial man Jesus who forces us to make a choice- for Him or against Him?
Then there is the other side of this whole issue- the “Keep Christ in Christmas” task force that seems hell bent on insisting that the rest of the world MUST accept Christ in Christmas. I can see the point. I don’t want the birth of my Savior marginalized by Santa, and the presents, and eggnog, and stockings. But even when the world accepts the Christ of Christmas, I think it is a hollow victory for Christians anyway. Jesus is just another character of the holiday like Frosty and Rudolf. The Christ of “Christmas Popular” is the baby, not the man. Not the Savior of the world, but the adorable cherub of the world. When we force the world to include the story of the coming of Christ, they are indulging us with an “Ah, isn’t He cute?” and not the “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices! O night divine” that He is worthy of.
So I am a little sad because I still love Christmas and everything about it. But I am beginning to concede that as much as I want it to be about Jesus, to include Him in a supporting role in a worldwide party is really not worthy of Him. It’s actually pretty insulting. I am not certain what the answer is, but I wish I could do this: I wish that I could take my understanding of this Savior- so much more than the babe in swaddling clothes- and put it into the heart of the unbelieving world for just one moment. I wish I could take the hope and the truth and the love that knowing Christ brings to my own heart and give it away. That would be a great Christmas present. You think Christmas is awesome? It is but a pale shadow of the joy of knowing the Christ that grew up from the babe in the manger. My Christmas gift to the world would be eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to know the Truth.