Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Before you change my moniker to ‘Ebenezer’ or start singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” hear me out.
I love Christmas. While I’ve disciplined myself to not pull out the trees and tinsel pre-Thanksgiving, I have been known to bust out Bing Crosby the day after Halloween. The wonder of the season is far from lost on me. I love the lights, the gifts, the music, the parties, the weather, the décor. I still get giddy on Christmas morning and try to soak up every bit of magic the season has to offer. And, as a devoted Christ-follower, I welcome the opportunity to celebrate the birth of my Savior.
Lately, however, my enchantment has been tempered by a bit of realism. A quick poll of a few friends confirmed my experience and revealed other words besides ‘wonderful’ to describe the Yuletide season.
It’s the Most Frenetic Time of the Year.
It’s the Loneliest Time of the Year.
It’s the Most Consumeristic Time of the Year.
Frenetic. If we’re not intentional, Christmas becomes a blur of shopping and baking, parties and pageants, hosting, cleaning, travelling, sending cards and frantically meeting year-end deadlines. The weeks leading to December 25 become a frenzy of tinsel, sugar, ugly Christmas sweaters, and the cha-ching of a cash register.
Lonely. Depression rates skyrocket during the holidays. Christmas can be a harsh reminder of fragmented relationships, loved ones no longer at the table, and dashed dreams. High expectations and culture-driven ideals often go unmet. Too many spend the holidays plagued by the way they thought life should be or hoped it would be.
Consumeristic. The pinnacle of Christmas ritual is usually the exchanging of gifts. From Halloween on, we’re bombarded by ads, deals, black Friday, and wish lists. Studies reveal Christmas becomes more and more ‘extravagant’ every year, with the average American spending nearly $1000 in 2017. Many go into debt to afford this cost.
And yet, Christmas truly is Wonderful. It’s full of wonder because it marks the beginnings of the most significant event in human history – God becoming man. Rather than enter the world with fanfare and extravagance, his beginnings were humble – born in a stable to two unassuming parents, surrounded by animals, hay, and shepherds. Rather than being born to rule, he was born to die – thus accomplishing redemption for humanity. Advent reminds us of his arrival into a world marked by sin as well as anticipation of his kingly return.
Below are three suggestions to help us keep our wonder and focus during Christmas:
1. Simplify. Be intentional about your time and resources. Before saying yes to every invitation, activity, and purchase, ask yourself: “Will this help my loved ones and me cultivate an attitude of worship?”
2. Invite. Who needs a seat at your table? Who could use the gift of your presence rather than your presents?
3. Reflect. Intentionally spend time reflecting on the wonder of the Incarnation. Re-read the Gospel accounts. Imagine the events surrounding Christ’s birth. Worship with song – Handel’s Messiah, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Joy to the World, to name a few.
Have a wonderful Christmas!