In case there is any doubt, I have many fond memories of Christmas from my childhood. I remember decorating the tree with my sisters, the different ornaments we had, the glow of the lights on the tree when the living room was dark, and the anticipation of learning what was in the boxes underneath. Daddy liked to sneak around and surprise us, and he would do silly things like trying to make it seem as though the dog had given the family a gift. He was a letter carrier, and gifts from people on his route would stack up as Christmas approached. Our favorite gift was See’s Candies. Eating a box of chocolates still reminds me of New Year’s at home.
To say that I don’t like the Holiday Season is probably an over-simplification. It is hard to admit, but I know that underneath my annoyance at the season, there is some angst about being single. It isn’t Hallmark Movie romantic angst; it is about missing out on family traditions that others enjoy. I grew up thinking that someday I would celebrate Christmas with my parents and my children. I enjoyed Christmas with my nephews, when they were young. There were four generations in my living room for Christmas, at least once. I cherish those memories, and I adore my nephews, but it isn’t the same. In recent years, Christmas has been a quiet affair. I can’t complain; it suits me. But it isn’t what I once imagined, and it isn’t how it’s “supposed to be.”
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. . .
This leads me to my greater frustration with Christmas and how it is celebrated in America. How many times have you heard someone say that Christmas is really about family? But that isn’t really what we are supposed to be celebrating. My pastor instructs that we worship whenever we do something we enjoy. Worship isn’t a word that only applies to God. We may worship God, but we worship a lot of other things in our lives, also. To paraphrase my Webster’s Dictionary, whenever we regard something as sacred, and render it honor, we are worshiping. Some people worship their cars, a sport, or even a celebrity. People are created to worship, which is why followers of Christ must guard their hearts and be mindful of the focus of their worship. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) The Christmas season is evidence of where many invest their treasure, and it shows that most hearts are not serving God. The family-centric ideal of the holiday is not a bad thing, in and of itself. But is it possible that people are worshiping family instead of God? Family and material possessions seem to be the focus of most people’s holiday.
Along these lines, I wonder if Christmas services at church worship tradition more than God. Things have to be a certain way because people want to feel a certain way and connect with memories of Christmases past. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it is being confused with actually worshiping God. Christians often give lip-service to the ‘Reason for the Season,’ while following the world in the pursuit of gifts and secular traditions. Much is done under the guise of celebrating Christmas, which has little to do with honoring God. Actions speak louder than words. If the celebration leaves out God, then it really isn’t about Him, at all.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
All of this begs the question, how do we worship our Savior, Jesus Christ, in the midst of the Christmas-craziness of our culture? Stillness, prayer, fasting, giving, and service are what come to my mind. In the midst of the greed, gluttony, and busyness of the world, perhaps abstaining from some of this is the best way to focus on God. Setting aside some of our time, when it is in highest demand, seems like a good idea. A few years ago, I stumbled into my own Christmas tradition of serving at the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child processing center. It has become my favorite part of the season. It is difficult to part with my time, and perhaps more difficult to part with my energy and rest, but there is great joy in serving and giving, and it is addictive. As I reflect on it, I realize that this service is a form of worship. This year, I also feel God nudging me to fast in order to keep my focus on Him. I have never engaged much in this spiritual discipline. I have a lot of excuses when it comes up, mainly that my stomach doesn’t like to be out of its routine. But I am considering how I might include this as part of my personal Christmas celebration.
I am not attempting to boast; I only want to share ideas that God has given me for making my celebration of Christmas about Him, instead of about me. I want to be an example to others, but I am sure that I fall short in many ways. Still, I hope I might encourage others to search their hearts this Christmas, and to seek to worship God in the midst of a culture that is worshiping everything but Him.