It’s December 1st. Thanksgiving was one week ago. We are officially in the Christmas season. From now until Christmas day people will suspend “normal” and enter Christmas-mode. Diligent dieters who have watched their weight all year will indulge and have to begin again in the New Year. People will wear sweaters that they wouldn’t be caught dead in even if it were negative 15 in February. Some will watch Hallmark movies with amazingly predictable plots and acting that is just phoned while they would pan these characteristics in other films. Artists pop out Christmas albums that offer little to no originality or artistry because they know we will buy them.
Christmas is its own thing. Some of the rules that govern the other 320-ish days of the year do not seem to apply during the Christmas season. Behind much of this lies the driving forces of American sentimentalism and nostalgia. The idea of the perfect Christmas with family, gathered around the tree opening presents while Bing Crosby plays in the background symbolizes that for which most Americans are searching.
By and large, Americans have created an idol at which they stoop to worship during the Christmas season. It is the American dream captured in a snapshot on a cold December morning. And yet, as Christians, we believe that Christmas has nothing to do with these cultural symbols. Christmas is about the incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We celebrate His coming as a baby who would live a perfect life and bear our sins on the cross. We don’t look at Christmas with mere sentimentality; we look at it with awestruck amazement at the grace of God.
Between now and Christmas, our culture will inundate us with Christmas parties, school plays, and other social events that can make focusing on the main thing so difficult. So here are four ways to place Christ at the center of Christmas.
- Go to church
There is no greater way to get refocused on the meaning of Christmas than celebrating the coming of the Lord with others in worship. If you remove this piece of the puzzle, it becomes exponentially harder to focus on the meaning of Christmas in the face of everything else going on.
- Do an Advent devotional
The season of Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas where churches celebrate the coming of Jesus. You can find several good devotionals can online that are ideal for families by Googling “advent devotional.”
- Start a Christmas tradition that focuses on the birth of Christ
During a time of year that so steeped in tradition, this is an opportunity to start a new tradition that focuses on the incarnation of Christ. Gather everyone around on Christmas morning to read the Christmas story before opening presents. Attend a Christmas Eve service with your family, etc., etc., etc.
- Invite a friend to church
What better way to spread the Christmas cheer than by inviting someone to church. Amazingly, research shows that people are more likely to accept an invitation to church during the Christmas season, and particularly Christmas Eve, than any other time of the year. Spread the Christmas cheer by sharing the joy of the incarnation with others.
The ways to put the birth of Christ back at the center of Christmas are endless, but it requires initiative. Our culture can quickly sweep us up into the hubbub of the season so that we miss the point. We can enjoy all of the festivities, but we must do so without losing sight of what is truly important.