Outwardly, there’s no right way to do Christmas. Can we just clear that up straight away?
I contend that the right way is opening gifts on Christmas morning but my husband tried to argue in the early years of our marriage, that it was Christmas Eve when everything was supposed to be torn open. I won early on, not because I’m right but because I have a stubborn streak and I tend to think that my ways are best.
We’ve talked at length around here about having idols of our own opinions so I won’t go into that again. I just thank the Lord that He is patient. (as is my husband!)
My son asked last night why there were no commercials on TV about worshipping Jesus at Christmas.
He was completely confused by the fact that it’s all about toys and wrapping and this made my mama heart swoon because he’s getting something. He’s seeing that we celebrate different.
But come into my house and you’ll see a tree all decorated up. You’ll see twinkly lights and sparkly ornaments. You’ll see stockings hung and presents galore under the tree. Much like anyone else’s house this time of year, I suspect.
So how is what we do different?
We bake all the treats and play all the carols and attend all the functions just like everyone else.
I hate the word balance because it’s an elusive little snake. I long for it in all facets of life but I’m much more swayed from radical end to radical end than ever finding that sweet little spot in the middle. In fact, I’ve stopped striving for it because I’m not sure it even exists.
But early this season it crept in for a second. The question of how we keep it all in balance at Christmas. Because there’s nothing wrong with all the cookies and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to gift big and there’s nothing wrong with gorgeous ornaments. There’s not.
We can be dillusional about it if we want, thinking that simple is better or more right or even more holy. But its not.
We can think that having more nativities around the house than Santas makes us more spiritual, but it doesn’t.
We can shine up the outside of the cup, decking our halls with homemade trinkets, spending little to seem more righteous and more “I’m not getting caught up in it all”. We can give to all of the charities and stand and ring that bell beside the kettle hoping people will give to our worthy cause.
But these things don’t make us bigger God lovers. We learned long ago that it’s all about the heart, right? We know that our actions are like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) We learned that Jesus had words for the Pharisees that were of the “woe to you” variety. (Read Matthew 23, if you dare) And can we just remember that they did EVERYTHING right. We’re talking tithing and praying and ‘caring’ for the poor. Except that heart bit. That’s the part they lacked.
There is one little verse in 1 Peter that I’m holding close this Christmas. Just a simple sentence.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. (1 Peter 1:8a)
That. That makes my heart swoon. It makes me feel all the feelings and if I’m perfectly honest sort of takes my breath away. The first time I read it a few days ago I had to stop. I had to just sit there, under those 9 words and let them penetrate ever fiber of my being. And then I smiled the goofy smile because, yes! That.
This is my verse this Christmas. No, I have not seen him but oh my goodness do I ever love him. And if everything that happens this season flows from there? Well, somehow I think it’ll all turn out alright.
Even if we give too many gifts, or eat too many cookies or get a bit stressed about all of the food making it to the table on time. Even if we snap at our kids or they cheek at us or we feel some sort of disappointment about how it all shakes down. Holidays are hard and movies have shaped us to think that miracles happen at Christmas. That somehow family comes around the table and there is nothing but joy, though much of the year has been heartache. That somehow children tear open presents and have nothing but thankfulness in their heart, when greed is what controls the rest of the year. We convince ourselves that things are different at Christmas.
And they can be, yes. But more likely it’ll be just another day. Just another day living on this earth as a broken human surrounded by other broken humans and we all seem to be in close quarters for a few days which means we just have a whole lot more opportunity to hurt each other. Or let each other down. Or expect more from each other.
This Christmas I’m holding on to only one truth. I’m letting down the veil that tells me it all needs to be perfect. I’m reminding myself that smiley happy grins painted on hurting faces isn’t better. I’m opting for real. To remember that we live in a tragically hurting world full of broken people, me being one of them. So this day will be filled with broken but it’s okay because though I haven’t seen him, man I love him.
And love can cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) And love shapes the way we do everything. And love means that we forgive. And love focuses on the good and encourages and is patient. And love is extravagant. And radical. And what we’re here for.
I love him.
It’s the only thing that makes the tree different and the presents different and the turkey different. It’s the only thing that will make our day different. It’s the only thing that makes me different.
So it doesn’t matter how we deck or undeck our halls. It doesn’t matter if we celebrate Christmas Day or Christmas Eve or rather observe all the Jewish Festivals because that’s what Jesus would have done. It doesn’t matter if our tree is gigantic and expensively adorned, or teeny and kind of sagging to one side. It doesn’t matter if you slaved over everything from scratch or popped those cranberries straight out of the can.
The real and only pressing question this season is this, do you love Him?