Some years ago, I went to a small, one-day retreat about simplifying Christmas, based on Unplugging the Christmas Machine by Jean Coppock Staeheli. The teacher applied her own expertise as a family counselor in practical exercises throughout the day to take a good hard look at what we’ve allowed Christmas to become and what we long for it to be.
We made lists of all the things we (women) do to make Christmas special for our families. I apologize if this comes off sounding “sexist”, but for the most part women do the lion’s share of the labor to make Christmas happen. We shop, wrap presents, write, address and mail Christmas cards, pick up the tree and decorate it – along with the rest of the house. The “to do” Christmas list is an entire page single-spaced. By the time Christmas rolls around, Mom is exhausted and feeling let down.
It’s taken a few years to change how we celebrate Christmas, and there have been minor rebellions along the way. One gift from each family for each child, no gifts for adults. One gift from each family for the entire family to enjoy, such a game or fudge or cookies. We forget, don’t we? We’re not celebrating our birthday. We’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday. God gave the greatest gift ever bestowed on mankind: His Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, destined to live a sin-free life, the Word that created all here clothed in human flesh, born to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins so that we might have peace as well as a renewed and intimate relationship with God, our Creator, the one and only true God of all the Universe. It boggles the mind.
Each day brings us a little closer to that cradle in Bethlehem. Like the magi, we seek the one whose birth would change everything. Jesus’ birth is the single most important event in history, His death the second, His resurrection the third. The fourth will come when He returns.
Why celebrate Christmas? Jesus’ birth promised us new birth. We were dead in our sins. To believe in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross and through the resurrection is to be reborn, to come alive, to arise as new creations. Jesus’ birth fills us with hope and the promise of eternity in His beautiful Presence.
Awaken, Sleeper! Arise! The Lord has come! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!