The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God's Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: "Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight." (Mark 1:1-3 CEB).
By now, most of us who celebrate Christmas have already set up our trees, hung the lights, purchased the gifts (or at least placed them into our virtual carts), and made plans for the holiday season. For some (in truth, for many) it is really nothing more than a holiday season. Albeit a wonderful holiday season. It’s a time to celebrate fellowship, charity, love, hope, gifts, ugly sweaters, and a host of nostalgic Christmas movies. It is the time of year when we are united by the understanding that only Bing Crosby should sing White Christmas and the Carol of the Bells is best performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Ah, what a time to be alive!
For some, this is a time to tell the world that Jesus is the reason for the season! It’s the time to protest Starbucks by saying, “Merry Christmas!” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
Yes, for some, Christmas is the time to let the neighbors know we are Christians by the nativity scene in our front yard. Do I sound cynical?
Let me be clear, I do believe that Jesus is the reason for the season and I do believe that we need to put Christ back into Christmas. What I fear, is that many of those who make these same claims have not really considered what that means. Let me begin by saying that it has nothing to do with what is written in lights on your house or on the cup of coffee you paid too much for. It is so much bigger than that, and my heart breaks when we cheapen Christmas to a seasonal time of protest.
For the Christian, Christmas is supposed be about celebrating the birth of Jesus. We all know that Jesus was probably not born in December, but His actual birth date is irrelevant. What matters is that He was indeed born. God took on flesh! This is a central tenet to Christianity, and it should be something we carefully consider as we move through the Advent season, toward Christmas. You see, God so loves us that His love, quite literally, manifest itself into flesh. The Creator took on flesh and dwelt with the creation that He loved so much. Let that sink in, because it says a lot about what it means to put Christ back into Christmas.
For most of the world, this season marks the end of the year. So, millions of Christians will finish off their year by serving in soup kitchens, putting change in the red can, or adopting a Christmas family. Of course, just as many non-Christians will do the same thing. After all, what a great way to wrap up the year.
For the church, however, the Advent season is not the end of the year, it is the beginning. It is the beginning because God did not wrap up His work with loving acts of grace; He began and proceeded with them. We are to do the same. Our lives should be dedicated to genuine acts of love for others. That is exactly what God did when Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago.
Right now, there are parents who have set up their tree, decorated their house, and wrapped presents for a child who will never come home. Right now, somebody’s little girl knows that Christmas means getting paid to let another person abuse her body. Right now, an addict puts a needle in his arm wondering if he will wake up. Right now, a real person is hurting and wants someone to know that. Right now, billions of people don’t care what is written on your house or on a cup of coffee. I doubt God does either.
What they do need, is Jesus. And I don’t mean someone preaching or shoving religion down their throat. They need the comfort, the love, and the connection that Jesus offers to everyone. They need us to put Christ back into Christmas by the way we respond to them. They need us to live like Jesus lived.