Christmas is coming! (December 2017)

I love Christmas. I love it in spite of everything we do to the holiday. Yes, I get tired of the mindless music in the malls and stores, the never-ending TV specials, the advertising that started back in September, the frantic round of parties, and the rush back to the stores again on December 26th.

Every year we come back to the Christmas story, because it speaks to our hearts and minds at the deepest level, and because it challenges us to look at the world in a different way.

What if we could strip all of the “extras” away? What if we could go back and hear the Christmas story for the very first time?

Could the story have worked out in a different way? What would have happened if Mary had said, “No!”? Do we hear what the prophets were really saying? What happens when Christmas Day is over and we have to go on with our lives?

It’s been 2,000 years, more or less, since the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth, good will to all people!” And we are still hungry for glory, peace and love.

Advent is a long season, during which we listen to the stories and the promises, ponder their meaning, and wonder in our hearts whether we’re really ready for the birth of Jesus, for the coming of the Savior.

Christmas has become overwhelmingly, obsessively focused on presents – it’s the biggest shopping spree of the entire year, and merchants count on making between 25% and 50% of their sales for the whole year during the Christmas season. We forget that the reason the whole gift thing got started was the presents that the wise men brought to Jesus in the stable – to a child who was homeless and was about to become a refugee when his parents fled to Egypt.

While many kids are quick to tell their parents that they want the latest video games, clothes, electronics and sports gear, these aren’t the things which really matter. In their insightful book, Unplug the Christmas Machine, Jo Robinson and Jean Staehili say that what children really want for Christmas are:

1) Relaxed and loving times with family
2) An evenly paced holiday season
3) Enjoying family traditions
4) Realistic expectations about gifts

This week I’ll go out to the garage and start digging out the decorations. We wait to put up our tree till it’s closer to Christmas. We start opening our family Advent calendar every evening after supper. When our kids were little, we had a family Advent wreath and lit a candle and had a quiet prayer time with them before bed.

We start playing our favorite Christmas music – the carols and Christmas spirituals, the music from around the world that celebrates the birth of Jesus. We call our family and friends, and send cards to remind them of the relationships of love that we want to remember.

Have a wonderful Christmas, but remember why we’re celebrating – the coming of Christ into the world!

– Josh Brown

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