“Keep the Christ in Christmas.”
“Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Christians like to throw around these phrases. Maybe for some they’re helpful–a small corrective when thoughts of a perfectly decorated tree and Instagrammable treats become consuming.
For me though, they are often laced with guilt.
I know at Christmastime I’m supposed to keep the focus on Jesus, to be reminded of the gift of his presence and to look forward in eager expectation to the time when he will return. For the past few years I’ve read a daily Advent devotional, I make a point to read the Christmas story from the different gospels, I attend church eagerly both in the weeks leading up to Christmas and on the day (or day before), and usually even give money or a gift to some worthy cause.
Yet as I do these different things, it doesn’t feel like enough. I know I’m supposed to keep the focus on Jesus, to be reminded of the gift of his presence and to look forward in eager expectation to the time when he will return, but I struggle to connect that with the earthly reality of the Christmas season.
My fear is that if I enjoy the family, friends, laughter, singing, food, and presents a little bit too much, I’m going to disappoint God.
Deep down, I know this isn’t how it works. I don’t believe in a God who stands by waiting for me to mess up so he can frown over me as I scramble to do better next time.
But sometimes we fling around the “Jesus is the reason for the seasons” so much that I get scared of messing it up, and what might happen if I do focus a bit too much on the family, friends, laughter, singing, food, and presents.
Except I’m beginning to be reminded of an important truth: the God who gave his Son as a Savior is the same one who gave family, friends, laughter, singing, food, and presents.
God gives good gifts to his children because he loves us and wants us to enjoy them.
It’s not to say that we should let them become the focus of Christmas. It’s excellent to read the Christmas story and go to church. This time of year is one of the only times I truly ponder how amazing it is that Jesus came as a human, and how his first coming is a reminder to also look forward in eager expectation to the time when he will return and make all things new.
But it’s time to be done with thinking I might disappoint God this Christmas while I enjoy being with my family or delight in the glee on the faces of my nieces and nephews or even as I appreciate the gifts I’m given. While they’re not the sole reason we celebrate Christmas, they are good.
And I think God delights in that goodness too.
Til next time…
p.s. Have you ever felt pressured by the reminders that “Jesus is the reason for the season?”