Nothing is as over as the December 25th Christmas holiday when it’s over.
The Christmas tree comes down, decorations are packed away for another year, the house seems a little less festal, and in the malls, the big After Christmas Sales are in full swing. At the same, time Valentine’s Day trinkets and cards, red heart shaped boxes of candy, and big teddy bears begin to appear.
We heard and sung about peace on earth, goodwill toward mankind. We watched the annual Christmas Specials of Rudolph, Santa and Charlie Brown as well as Scrooge, Ralphie, and Clark Griswold. We were perhaps a bit more charitable to others in the weeks leading up to the holiday. But as the credit card bills begin to arrive, how do we continue balancing charitable giving to those in need with the Balance Now Due on our January statements?
Moving away from December 25th brings on the inevitable letdown. All that anticipation for something special, something holy, something that was to make the world a little different and better may have left many wondering: did it happen, for any of us? So much expectation was packed into the weeks of preparation, what happened?
Amidst the “holiday” hustle and bustle, we sometimes can suffer from tunnel vision directing us how to celebrate Christmas. We wake up December 26th thinking Christmas has come and gone wondering, really, that was it? What happened? Simply, we missed what we really needed to grab hold of.
The Birth of Christ is to be a holy time in celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ as a gift of God the Father to mankind. Think about the words: birth; holy; gift; celebration; coming; salvation; God. These are words that don’t fit into the economic forecasts of a “good Christmas”, the GDP, or the latest electronic “must-have” fad. But do they have a place in the daily life of a Christian. To truly understand Christmas you need to eliminate the distractions and ponder the wonders of the Birth of Christ – Immanuel – God with us.
As an Armenian Priest, I too observe December 25th with gifts under the tree, the special culinary treats, and joining with others in fellowship. But I look at it merely as a stopover on my journey to Bethlehem when I can celebrate the intent of the occasion.
If you are weary from the worry and stress that attempts to squeeze the faith out of you, you can hope for something different, such as a fresh touch from God. You see God’s touch is all you really need to celebrate His Birth. God delights to reach down from heaven to touch the hearts of people who are honest enough to admit their need for Him and renewal.
If you truly want to enjoy the celebration of the Birth of Christ, it is not too late – it never is! And by the way, dates on the calendar really have no significance in the celebration. So here are three simple suggestions. I start with the obvious:
Open your Bible
- Read the complete narrative and be reminded of what the actual words of Scripture tell you about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel writers of Luke (2.1 – 39) and Matthew (1.18 – 2.23) are speaking to you directly. Read their words slowly and carefully.
- Place yourself there, in Bethlehem, at the foot of the manger. Appreciate the event from the eyes of the characters mentioned; Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, the shepherds. How do you understand what is taking place?
- How does the killing of the innocent children of Bethlehem by the evil King Herod – seldom if ever mentioned – change your understanding of Christmas?
- How does the birth of Christ affect you as one who knows the entire story, from birth to resurrection?
Bring joy to others
- We take delight in making babies and little children smile and laugh, do the same with all people.
- Pay attention to those who are lonely.
Communication – both in speaking with and listening to God will bring more “comfort and joy” than “presents under the tree”.
Then after doing the above, fulfill the words of the Apostle Paul.
Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. . . . The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
(II Cor. 13. 11-13).
Just maybe, if you try these suggestions, your journey toward Christmas will become that which you were seeking all along.