We’re apt to criticize the Christmas season.
It’s true, there’s a lot to criticize in the way our culture defines Christmas. What should be a season of beauty, wonder, and worship becomes several weeks of fighting crowds and harried online shopping. Celebration of our Savior’s birth turns into the stress of too many parties and events.
As Christians, of course we should push back against this hijacking—if not in the larger culture, at least in our own lives and our own families. But is there actually anything wrong with the parties and the presents? Are Walmart and Amazon really to blame? Or does the problem start with us?
What if the Christmas season has been hijacked, not by stress and busyness, but by our own idolatrous hearts?
Remember the Reality
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Before we get lost in the busyness of the season, maybe we should take a moment to think about why it’s so busy. To remember the reality behind so much of what we do at Christmas.
Behind all the celebrations and traditions of this season lies one great, weighty, relentless truth. God Himself—God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity—became a man. It’s a beautiful truth and a wondrous mystery: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
He lived among us, shared our sorrows and temptations and griefs. But it didn’t end there. He lived out on our behalf the perfect obedience that we could never accomplish. He was killed to pay the penalty for our sin. And in rising again from the dead, He defeated sin and the grave forever.
This Christmas season, take some time to meditate on those truths. Carve out some time from the shopping and the parties to read John 1 or Luke 1-2. Bow your head in wonder and worship.
Lift Your Eyes
So what about all those things that take up our time at Christmas? Are they worthless or unnecessary?
Well, maybe some of them are. You probably don’t need to attend a Christmas party every day of the week, and most likely every person in your friend group doesn’t need a gift from you. Pace yourself; make time to rest and spend uninterrupted time with others and with the Lord.
But I don’t think we need to cut out all the events, the shopping, the gifts. What we do need is a change of perspective. Instead of letting all these things drag us down into stress, we need to let them lift our eyes. Use them as opportunities to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 1:2).
Behind all the traditions of the Christmas season, there’s a bigger reality.
- When we decorate our houses with strings of lights, we illustrate how the Light came down and shone in our darkness (John 1:4-5).
- We fight crowds to find gifts for our family and friends in imitation of how God gave us such an inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
- We throw parties, because ultimately Christmas is about celebration—celebration of how God broke into human history, entered our story like an author becoming one of his characters.
- When we go caroling, like the angels at Christ’s birth we proclaim that Immanuel has come. God is with us (Luke 2:13-14; Matthew 1:23).
In these last few days before Christmas, take some time to meditate on the glory of our Savior’s humility in becoming a man. Make sure to have some quiet time, just yourself and God; but also let the things that make this season busy draw your gaze upward. Turn your eyes to the deeper reality they represent. The song of the angels echoes to this day; may we echo it in our hearts and lives.
Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.
Editor’s Note: the article was previously published in 2018.