I ‘ve always been a bit ambivalent about Christmas. I grew up in a home where there was faith in Christ but celebrating Christmas as his birthday was, while not specifically outlawed, sort of a secondary thought. I mean, we knew he was born, but probably not in December. So ours was more of the traditional Hallmark movie-style celebration with an emphasis on food, family, and fun.
Please don’t get me wrong; those are wonderful things and I enjoy them immensely. But the problem is they come and go, and you’re still faced with a long, dark, cold winter. The “holiday season” is a temporary reprieve from whatever problems you face on a daily, or at least regular, basis. Or perhaps it just emphasizes them by orders of magnitude. While we may be able to find some ‘goodwill toward men’ within ourselves for a time, it’s difficult to maintain.
As I have grown older, my thoughts about Christmas have undergone some changes. The world likes a generic, nonreligious celebration of- something. It’s no longer called Christmas, or even a ‘holiday’. Now we have a ‘winter celebration’. It’s all about the stuff, the lights, and the parties in an attempt to convince ourselves we’re OK and forget how ugly the world is for a while. It’s a little like junk food or too much alcohol for the spirit. It may feel good for now but we’ll be miserable later.
But the “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” declaration doesn’t ring entirely true, either. Aside from reducing Jesus to a bumper sticker slogan, it completely misses the significance of what happened in a field and a dirty little feeding trough in Bethlehem. I recently read an article by Jon Bloom entitled Prepare Him Room from the DesiringGod.org website. It was a different view of Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, and worlds apart from the Christmas card picture we usually associate with the Nativity. Especially poignant is the statement: “Surely we can find some room somewhere!” for the One born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. Luke’s response is given as, “can you”?
We live desperately because we want hope and badly need it. But there is none to be found in the glitz and noise of ‘winter holiday’. It is an empty promise of a temporary fix for the soul. But when we stop to consider the birth of Christ, what Jon Bloom calls “a desperate moment for a desperate reason”, we suddenly have a reason to really celebrate. God, the Almighty Creator, was so unwilling to give up his creation to the power of sin that he provided his own solution, dressed as a poor defenseless baby. That’s how much he loves us, and it is the only gift that really lasts.
While I still don’t think that December 25th was the actual date of Jesus’ birth (there is no shepherd in the world that would be out in the field on a northern Michigan December night, or most anywhere else north of the equator), I still welcome the opportunity to spend time in meditation and gratitude for the best gift I could ever hope to receive. I hope that you, too, will consider Preparing Him Room this Christmas season.