Celebrating the Christ Part. For Reals.

Merry Christmas, friends!

photo by Kim Hamrick

photo by Kim Hamrick

In the last week leading up to Christmas, I tend to be immersed in finishing-up gift buying and crafting, wrapping and (hopefully) crossing off lists. There’s never a shortage of tasks and I happily (for the most part) dive in feeling like I have purpose and usefulness.

In the midst of all that, it’s really easy for the “reason for the season” to take a back seat. Granted, nearby are two nativity scenes and our decorated Christmas tree. Some of the time I have Christmas music playing or my kids are watching a holiday special. But I’m not necessarily feeling like I’m getting it right. The sentiments, I mean.

If Advent is about preparing our hearts and looking forward to the promised Savior, Christmas is about His arrival. Christmas points to the fulfilled promises and those promises yet to be fulfilled. The best is yet to come and Christmas should remind us of that.

A couple weeks ago I was listening to an episode of Issues Etc.in which Jonathan Fisk (author of Broken and creative genius behind Worldview Everlasting) posed a great question:

“Where is my hope? Is my hope in the Christmas lights on the house? Is my hope in the gifts under the tree and the family around it? Or is my hope that the baby in the manger became a man who died for my sins? Do my traditions put me in that mindset or are they stealing that mindset from me?”

The episode was a good one and by no means suggested we should do away with all of our various Christmas traditions. But it did prompt me to reflect on our traditions and which ones direct us to Christ and which ones don’t.

It’s a reminder too that Satan often uses really great things in our lives – pieces of Truth even – to distract us and direct us away from the loving, forgiving arms of Jesus. My life is incredible and so many things are outright beautiful and comforting and fabulous. But those things aren’t God. They aren’t a saving grace or a perfect eternal hope. They can all be taken away from me in the blink of an eye and leave me with nothing to hope in. If my relationship with God is grounded in a heart of thankfulness, that disappears when all those things I’m thankful for disappear. If my relationship with God is based in how satisfying it is to “experience” Him in powerful emotions and meditation, our connection is lost when my mind and soul struggle to “feel” the right way. If my relationship with God is reflected in the fruits of my spirit and this proves to me His approval on my life, what happens when physically or mentally I am unable to produce the proof?

So many good things. That won’t withstand the test of time. That aren’t faithful like my God. That aren’t going to be there no matter how bad I screw up.

At Christmas when I’m trying so hard to make things perfect-ish, one Truth I can see in the nativity nearby, is that God sent His perfect son. That His promises hold up no matter what. The comfort of THAT Truth points me to the cross and Jesus’ perfect life and overwhelming grace. Which points to an eternity of love instead of an eternity of punishment. We have looked forward to these days of celebration and now that they are here, we can hold in our arms God’s never-ending, faithful promise that He sends the Savior He promised, and will send Him again.

May the faithful joys of Christmas be as real to us as the baby Mary held in her arms centuries ago.

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