Doesn’t matter who I’ve talked to recently — Christian baby boomers, non-religious 20-somethings, an 8-year-old girl, my friends, the cute guy sitting behind me at church, the cashier at the grocery store — everyone’s in agreement about one thing:
It doesn’t feel like Christmas.
I don’t know if it’s the lack of snow, or all the negativity in the media, or the fact that LED twinkle lights are officially taking over as the norm, but one thing’s for sure…it’s December 12, and people are not in the Christmas spirit.
Living in NYC is so special…especially around the holidays. There really is nothing comparable. The lights, the shopping, the smell of roasting chestnuts, the Christmas displays, the holiday markets, the ice skating…it’s something you’ve got to experience in person to truly appreciate.
I’m not seeing quite as many decorations up. I’m not hearing hardly any Christmas music. There just isn’t that cheer that has been such a mainstay around this time of year.
I was thinking about this the other night. I had a free evening, so I went to the candlelight Christmas concert at my church. And it was truly as beautiful as it sounds. A cappella music; that breathtaking, non-LED, amber glow from real candles; and a stunning church to boot – complete with holly accents.
And it was in that moment that I had one of those, stomach-dropping moments.
I asked myself, “Is Christmas dead?”
Sure, maybe inside my church walls, it’s alive and well…but walk outside these red doors and it’s a different story. A somber thought indeed.
The next morning, I was at brunch with my friends and we were all talking about our holiday travel plans. Who was visiting the houses of a significant other for the first time, who was going to be in town for New Year’s Eve…you know…the worries and preoccupations of a typical 20-something.
But the conversation suddenly found itself in a discussion about the meaning of Christmas. And all the questions were directed at the resident-Christian…me.
What’s the big deal between ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays?’ Why can’t everybody just say, “Merry Christmas?” Because to many of my friends…Christmas was just a time of year. It was that “feel good” time with family and friends, and Christmas trees, snowmen and Santa Claus. What’s the big deal if a Jewish person says “Merry Christmas?” Why would they even care– Christmas is just a cultural, seasonal holiday anyway? Can’t we all just be in agreement about “Merry Christmas?”
And I suddenly found myself trying to articulate the difference between Judiasim and Christianity.
And I was explaining to one of my non-Christian, non-anything friends how Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. And that, unlike Jewish people, Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah – the “Bringer” of our Salvation. And so, in essence, Christmas is the celebration of the point of our faith. We’re celebrating the birth of Jesus.
I cited how at my house, we make a gingerbread house with my niece one day, and then the next day, we make a birthday cake for Jesus.
And he took this all in. And we ended the conversation by coming to the agreement that Christmas, in actuality, is a deeply personal time of year. Because contrary to what culture dictates, whether it’s “CHRISTmas” or just another cultural celebration, a la, Thanksgiving, it actually means something. And to the people who say ‘Merry Christmas’ because of the birth of Jesus, it means something much deeper than just the season of White Peppermint Mochas and tidings of good cheer.
And maybe it was the 2 Mimosas I was currently processing on an empty stomach, but hearing those words coming out of my mouth, as I was explaining the point of Christmas to a non-believer…it dawned on me…
Something that I’m not proud to admit.
So far this year, I’m guilty of experiencing a Jesus-less Christmas.
Which sounds horrible. I know. It’s not like I’m denying my Savior, but admittedly, He hasn’t been the focus of this time of year just yet.
This year, I don’t know, I guess I have just been so wrapped up in the busyness of Christmas, rather than the miracle.
And hearing myself explain, in “kid english” what Christmas was all about, I realized….that’s what was missing.
I had forgotten about Jesus.
After all, isn’t that the real point of Christmas?
I’ve never been one to really fall into the “War-On-Christmas”-camp, but I do think that there’s some truth to the de-Jesus-ing of Christmas. We want to celebrate Christmas, and have our red-and-green, and Santa hats, and say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” which is all well and good…but where is Jesus in all of that?
I have this visual in my head of the manger scene, but instead of an amber-lit, peaceful scene of Baby Jesus’ humble beginnings, His manger is buried under Macy’s boxes, Starbucks cups, Hatchimals, and competitively-lit Christmas light displays.
So, realistically, what can we do about this?
Because honestly….it’s tough. There are still going to be parties to attend and travel plans to make. And even with the help of Amazon, those gift’s ain’t gonna buy themselves.
I think at the end of the day, it’s gotta come back to Jesus.
If there’s one Christmas decoration to put up this year…(besides the tree)…it’s the manger scene.
Because just like literally everything else in life…Jesus isn’t going to boisterously shove His presence into our lives. He’s going to just be there, quietly, not seeking attention, as that Little Baby, softly cooing and being peaceful. He’s always there, available, just waiting for us to come in and keel beside the manger. But we’ve got to decide to do so.
So maybe that’s what I need to do more of.
Take a breather, and go back to the manger. Look in and see the Christ Child in His infancy, knowing full well the magnitude and significance His birth brings to our salvation.
Because without that perspective, Christmas is just an empty holiday. Filled with “feel-good” traditions, patrolling elves on shelves, and unhealthy doses of materialism.
Really, what does Christmas mean?
It’s time to go back to the manger.
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