All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
So there I was, merrily slapping return address labels on my Christmas cards and letting my thoughts wander when two things came into sudden, sharp focus.
First that I was merrily slapping them on the wrong corner of the envelopes and second that my cousin, Jeneane's, revelation about Christmas was absolutely spot on. Allow me to begin by stating her disclaimer (and mine) that neither one of us think the whole Christmas holiday celebration is in any way evil, wrong, or malign. We both enjoy the festivity, the time with family, and the fudge tremendously. Let me also state for the record that this particular post really is written for the believer in Jesus Christ and not, as some of my other posts are, evangelical in any way.. . But back to Christmas: We do not believe Christmas fun is wrong. It simply is not in keeping with the current birthday traditions.
I know. It took me a moment to separate myself from some 38 years of cultural indoctrination concerning Christmas, too.
When I was a secularist, I gadded about wishing everyone a "Happy Holidays!" Once I became a Christian, I was a zealous wisher of "Merry CHRISTmas" to all, even dropping the obese man in the red suit from our family celebration in favor of simply giving gifts to my kids (and yes, even stockings although they have no delusions who the giver of the stocking gifts are!) and gleefully celebrating the birth of my Savior by buying, making, or baking gifts for those I love and some I just like. And yes, by merrily slapping return address labels on a large stack of Christmas cards. After all, 'tis the season of giving, right?
The only thing is, in America we typically give gifts to the birthday honoree. In the case of Christmas, as I fervently prattled for the last few years, that birthday Boy is none other than Emmanuel; God With Us. Frantic attempts to convert this particular Birthday celebration from a hectic, greed-filled free-for-all into a time of contemplation and repentance has been only mildly successful and left my cousin and me with the nagging suspicion that something was off. It wasn't until she posed the question that I could put it into words...
If Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Christ, why do we not give Him--God With Us, the One for Whom we adamantly proclaim our love and devotion--gifts on His birthday? I have personally never celebrated my husband's birthday by purchasing gifts and cards for almost everyone I know, although I did assure my cousin that I would honor her birthday (which is today, actually) by gifting my children with treats.
Back to the point: Why do we celebrate the birth of our Lord by overspending, over committing, and overeating instead of reflecting on the reason He humbled Himself to be born at all--to die as a ransom for us? Why is it that we do not focus our efforts on giving gifts to further His Kingdom, perhaps giving all that Christmas gift money to missions, or better yet to go spread the Gospel ourselves? Why not give to those truly in need rather than to each other who really have no need, or to put it another way, "to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world?"
Now before I become everyone's favorite person to loathe, let me say that I am not precisely ready to toss out my tree and forsake my chocolate-dipped pretzels. I adore the whole season, and I love giving special gifts to my kids and baking for friends. I am not likely to give it up anytime soon. However, I am reconsidering calling it Christ's birthday celebration and merely thinking of it as a celebration of His gift of salvation and the gift of loved ones old and young who have brightened my life. After all, all good gifts come from the Father of Lights, and I see no problem in celebrating His goodness at the end of each year. In fact, I would like to see myself do that every day.
In the future, I may call it Jesus's birthday present when we finally take a family mission trip, or when I help someone needy in some way. My family has even considered one day celebrating Christmas by spending all our gift money for each other on a mission trip, and even the little ones are intrigued by the idea. That would be a most excellent Christmas, I think, and I am looking forward to it and, God willing, am hoping to begin planning it soon.
But for this year, I will celebrate tradition and wrap the already-purchased gifts and making the ingredients packing my pantry into some treat to share with others. I do hope to help some folks in need, and I know the opportunity will arise. It always does, for as Jesus Himself once said, "...you will always have the poor with you..." and so there will always be need. And I will also finish merrily slapping return address labels on my Christmas card envelopes... only I will be certain to hit the correct corner this time around.
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.Ephesians 6:23-24