For many people Christmas is a wonderful time of year. They love everything about it and talk about the Christmas Spirit. I must be honest. The thought of Christmas coming fills me with a sense of dread. My stomach clenches, I wake up in the mornings with clenched jaws and a headache. Why?
Christmas for me is a hectic time. I love giving gifts but can't stand shopping or malls. I feel pressure to have the house decorated just perfectly, have scads of baking done and the presents wrapped expertly and under the tree before December 24th and still study for exams, go to work, do laundry, housework, cook meals and this year get a house ready to sell!
I love Christ. I love that God lowered himself to be born in the same manner that all humans are born, but in a primitive barn. "He made himself lower than the angels" and he did it for love.
I love family. I love the gathering of family, the joy and the laughter of those who love one another deeply.
I love giving and, Christmas is a perfect time for that.
I don't love the sense that we must somehow create the Perfect Christmas, that we must create the perfect memories and traditions.
Every year I need to remind myself that if our house doesn't resemble the home on the Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping, and if my family has to eat store bought baking this year, that does not make Christmas a failure. Every year I need to remind myself to relax and remember what is really important.
Jesus Christ was born, not so that we could have a winter holiday, drink eggnog, attend concerts, or even so that we can gather with loved ones around the Christmas tree. He was not born so that once a year we could have some sort hazy feeling called the Spirit of Christmas. Then on December 26 rush madly out to boxing day sales where we swear at those who take our parking spaces and urgently grasp at the best deals of the year.
Jesus was born into a world of hopelessness, at a dark time in the history of a nation in order to be the world's Hope and Light. Christ was born to be a sacrifice. The perfect lamb for the forgiveness of sin, our sin. He was born with blood and water destined to die a bloody, tortuous death by crucifixion, and he did it out of love.
The most important thing about Christmas is not to create the perfect spirit of Christmas but to answer Jesus' question. "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)
We don't need a fat man in a red suit, a star on a Christmas tree, a turkey dinner. We need what God has to offer, the gift of the Spirit of his One True Son living in us 365 days a year, year after year. This is what I need to remember.