For me, Christmas has become a fight in recent years. It’s not so much a wrestling with why we celebrate Christmas, but more of a struggle with how we celebrate.
As a musician, the Christmas season starts early and runs right up until the day itself. It is busy, to say the least. But during the hectic schedule a dull, unexplainable feeling of melancholy, mixed with despondency, settles over me. I have a hard time shaking it and it usually runs right up until the New Year.
I’m beginning to piece together some of the reasons why I believe this happens. After conversations with a friend of mine, and listening to others who seem to have this same struggle, I can now at least begin to formulate my theory as to why this affects me the way it does.
1. A lot of has to do with the way Christmas is celebrated. There is a strange mix of the spiritual and the commercial that seems to plague our culture. Sure, Christians celebrate Christmas primarily marking the birth of Jesus. But then those same well-intended pilgrims turn right around and dive deeply into the secularism and commercialism that surrounds us.
2. It seems that our methods of celebrating the season, especially in the church, have become rote and ritual. There are always the obligatory Christmas musicals, cantatas and Broadway-style productions. We have carol and candlelight services, eat food and perhaps, launch a few ministry-based functions to help those less fortunate. Then we go about our “business as usual” the rest of the season. There seems to be a disconnect.
Are we entertaining or enlightening?
3. We sing the same familiar songs yet we never really ponder why we sing them. Tradition? Repetition? And why do they all seem to focus on the central theme of the birth and not move past that event in their scope? Isn’t there a depth to Christ’s coming that we totally miss in that regard?
4. We surround ourselves with friends and family. We buy gifts for friends and family. But do we ever look around us at those who are desperate for love and in need at this time of year? Christmas only heightens the sense of “being without” for those who are lonely or cast aside. What can we do to shift the focus from presents to people? And I’m not just talking about tossing in a few dollars for a needy child, that’s all well and good. But what do we do as individuals to minister to those we pass on the street or meet in the mall?
5. Can we, as believers, with moral integrity and intellectual honesty, continue to mix Santa and Jesus? What kind of message does that send to our children? What are we teaching them to observe? If Mary and Joseph did without that first Christmas, why do we feel like we must indulge? Isn’t part of the Christmas message rooted in the lack of provision for them as they lodged for the night? The fact that Christ was born more as a pauper than a Prince?
I believe Matthew 6:19-24 speaks to part of this struggle with Christmas and how we should respond to it as believers.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustdestroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
I realize I’m probably in the minority with the way I feel. And I am certainly guilty of everything I’ve mentioned above when it comes to celebrating Christmas. But one thing I am determined to do is to fight, fight to turn Christmas into a celebration of not only the birth of Jesus, but more so, a celebration of the way He demonstrated for us to live our lives,