Food? Parties? Gifts? Love or Family? Jesus’ birthday? Or something else?
I like a lot of Christmas traditions – Carol singing, gift giving and the general atmosphere, as well as food and gatherings. But while they are great, I don’t think they are what Christmas is all about.
I feel that people have turned Christmas into cheerful end of year celebration of family, magic and food but forgot where it originated from. People long for closeness, love, a sense of something special and that’s why, I think, they love Christmas so much. Because for a day (or just a bit longer) these things are there. But what about the rest of the year?
I’m sure you have thought about it many times, but do you actually realise what this baby in a manger and all the events of that night long ago mean in your life personally, not only at Christmas but all year round?
Where is God in it?
Every part of the Bible description of Jesus’ birth, and events preceding it, carries a message. We could look at each part separately but the most important message that comes from all of them is: God is with us. And He wants to be close to us.
God was with us at the beginning – in the garden of Eden. God was still with us when, stained by sin, we were leaving the paradise. God was with us throughout the centuries when people were waiting for Jesus’ birth and all the years after. And God is with us today. With you and with me, and at Christmas we celebrate his presence, the fact that he came to us in a form of another human being. A friend. A neighbour.
Can you think of any king in history disguising himself as one of those he rules over and coming to his people as a baby? I cannot. But that is what God did in the birth of Jesus.
If you have had a baby or interacted closely with someone who had, you will know how much these little human beings rely on their parents. That is, in a way, how much God ‘relied’ on us – I do not need to say how much ‘risk’ he was taking. God, the one who made everything became one of his own creation. Not only He came to earth, but he did so the same way as everyone else. He promised Eve and all the women childbearing in pain. He himself did not skip that bit but was born like any other human being. Giving birth is a miracle. To know that Mary carried Jesus for 9 months and then gave birth to him like all other women in history has done, makes God so much more relatable.
God really became human. One of us. And he did it so we not only can live forever in unity with Him experiencing the fullness of life but also, so we know that whatever we are going through we are not alone.
If this is the message of Christmas, then I really want to celebrate. I want to celebrate the presence of God in a way he would want to celebrate.
He wants you and me to understand the message hidden in his birth. He wants you. Yes, the wise men brought gifts, but they didn’t give them to each other or to Mary or Joseph, but to Jesus. If they were that wise should we not follow their example?
I am not calling on stopping the gift giving because everyone can decide for themselves what to do, and I would be a hypocrite if I did, but I’m reminding all of us, to do it sensibly and to re-consider what gift giving is about.
It is the same with all the other Christmas traditions. The most important thing is to realise what you personally are celebrating when you say you celebrate Christmas. Even calling this time Christmas makes us to think about it in a specific way. I think I prefer to say we are celebrating Jesus’ birth because it really shows the reason for the season.
After all those years of searching, I finally know that I am celebrating fact that someone whose birth was prepared ages before he was born, came in such a humble way. That the one who came to save me, entered this world in the same way as I did. That in this birth came real hope for us who lived separated from God. That his birth makes good good life possible. That because of his birth I have life in all its fullness, that I can live everyday with God who created me.
I do not need markets, gifts, or parties to do that – I need the time at his feet to enjoy it to the fullest.
When these become the most important, it really does not matter how you celebrate. You can have Polish, Ethiopian, or British food. Or no special food whatsoever.
You can have a small tree or a big one. You can give gifts or give none. You can be on your own or surrounded by people. While the way you celebrate might change every year and your understanding of Christmas might evolve, what does not change is the fact that he was born for you and me and we need to discover what it means to us personally.
I want to celebrate in joy, love and laughter because the one who was born at first Christmas, brought all these things. I want to celebrate with those I love or with those that need loving and are hard for me to love. And most of all, I want to give the gift of Jesus.
I want to prepare myself for this celebration and that’s why every year, I like advent more.
Yes, I might also go to a Christmas fair, decorate a tree, have a mince pie but they aren’t really ways of celebrating Jesus birth. They’re nice things that are out there at this time of the year and it’s simply nice to enjoy one or two.
Have yourself a …
I will not give you a recipe for celebrating Christmas in the right way because there is no one way to do it. The same that there is no one specific way to build your relationship with God through Jesus. When it comes to doing something from the heart, it will be a different thing for each person.
I pray that you will discover the meaning of the birth of Jesus in your own personal way and that celebrating it will bring you closer to him and will help you experience the fullness of life that He brings to us every day.