Christmastime comes loaded with pressure. Pressure to host the perfect party, pressure to bake eight different kinds of cookies and then package them prettily, pressure to make Instagram-worthy memories with the people you love. And then, for Christians, there’s the pressure to keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas.
Except no one actually has the fail-proof way to do that.
Reading the Christmas story and Advent devotionals, going to church, and praying are all ways to help keep Christ in Christmas, but even those can fail. Or maybe I’m just a particularly bad Christian. But I suspect I’m not the only one who has found that even the best of intentions to keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus’ birth sometimes don’t turn out the way we want them to.
Because here’s the thing: At the end of the day, we’re still human. We can try try try to keep Jesus at the heart of Christmas, but our intentions will always go askew.
Being human is the recipe for mixed-up intentions.
Which, when we let it, can lead to a lot of guilt. We beat ourselves up over getting excited about presents and looking forward to Christmas dinner, worry that our Christmas parties don’t reflect our Christian faith enough, and fret over singing along to songs about Santa. And, weaved among it all, we subtly fear our celebrations of Jesus’ birth aren’t good enough. We haven’t tried hard enough to bring him glory and to keep the focus on him through it all.
Occasionally it seems tempting to just quit trying to focus on Jesus, and instead throw up our hands, succumb to greedily wanting all the presents ever and yell at our family when they mess up the Christmas ham.
Or, we could realize there is no “fail-proof Christian way” to celebrate Christmas. As with many of the practices of Christianity, there’s not a perfect way to approach Christmas with completely pure intentions. I don’t think we need to take down the tree, return the presents, and give away all our food in order to keep Christ in Christmas.
Our outward actions this time of year may look much the same as the rest of the world, but our reasons for doing them can be drastically different. Perhaps it is in the doing of these actions that our intentions get purified.
Maybe, when we undertake these activities with the knowledge that God rejoices in our celebrations, we can do them in good faith that he knows our why of doing them. We can give—and receive—material gifts realizing that we haven’t earned any of it, and that we’d never, in all our strivings for good intentions, be able to earn the gift Christmas is really about. We can celebrate Christmas in assurance that we serve a God who is not out to make us earn our standing with him, but, because of Jesus, he sees us as good and clean anyway.
A God who loves us, Christmas parties, presents, mixed-up intentions and all.
Til next time…
p.s. How do you handle the pressure to keep Christ in Christmas?