I have a lot of favorite Christmas traditions—decorating the tree, baking cookies, watching “White Christmas.” I can remember doing these things since I was a little kid.
But as I think back to then and compare it to how Christmas looks now, the holiday season has gotten bigger and starts a lot earlier. The Christmases from my childhood were a lot simpler. I don’t think I knew anyone who had more than one Christmas tree in their house. We didn’t even put one up until about a week before Christmas.
Now it’s hard to escape the marketing of Christmas, and yet I wonder if there’s really much Christmas alive at all. From Amazon boxes piling up on porches to stressing about family gatherings, and decorating multiple trees in one home, there’s just not a lot of focus on Jesus. Now don’t get me wrong, I know we all know the reason for the season. But is that our real focus?
It seems maybe Lucy knew the truth. “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket,” she tells Charlie Brown in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.”
OK, maybe Lucy is a little cynical and opinionated, but Christmas has lost its focus on the birth of our Savior.
I think a lot of us can relate to Charlie Brown: “I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed,” he says.
How terribly sad and yet so true.
According to a recent survey LendingTree, 40% of Americans are not looking forward to Christmas this year. The National Alliance on Mental Health Illness reports that 60% feel financially strained, experience loneliness and simply feel too much pressure during the holiday season.
Umm … that doesn’t sound anything like Jesus! Jesus is all about love and joy. He says, “‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’” (Matthew 11:30). Doesn’t it sound like something’s wrong here?
For all the glitter and gifts, Christmas doesn’t always point people to Jesus. Of course, all those things are good right? I mean what’s wrong with decorating a tree, or two or even five, watching Hallmark Christmas movies or buying lots of Christmas gifts? Well, nothing really. In and of themselves these are not bad things.
The problem comes when we focus too much on the traditions surrounding Christmas and completely miss out on the ultimate gift: Jesus. As Christians, I think we want to make Him the center, but do we?
We cave into culture and stress over traditions. We let the joy get zapped right out of us. But is this coincidence? Have we just taken something good and stressed ourselves out? I think not!
Satan has been working since the beginning of time to kill, steal and destroy the children of God. He has been around to watch generation after generation. He’s studied and prepared. I think He relishes in watching us stress, dread and worry. Remember, we are in the midst of an invisible war. Christmas is a perfect time for Satan to disguise his plans to wreak havoc on us.
So what are we to do?
I love Christmas cookies as much as the next girl and all the memories I’m making with my family, but there’s never been a better time to put on the armor of God. The battle is real. And the best weapon we have is the Word of God. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
We’ve got to be in the Word. If you’re not sure where to begin, just open and start reading the Psalms or Matthew. I think God really speaks to us in this time, but we’ve got to get serious and put His Word in our heart. Make it God’s Word you meditate on each day.
When Christmas starts to feel stressful or even sad and lonely, pull out your double-edged sword. This is going to change your Christmas! This is the gift you can give back to your Savior. This is a gift that’s going to last forever.
So, this season, I encourage you to celebrate Christmas with family traditions and giving but with a focus on Jesus’ birthday. That’s what it’s really all about.
If you’ve ever read Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” you know that the Grinch eventually finds happiness and peace not in worldly things, but in love and true heartfelt giving. “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more,” says the Grinch.
In reality, Christmas means everything! It means God sent His only Son to save the world. And that is truly something to celebrate.
Amy Potter, is a prayer warrior, wife, mother, teacher, worker, writer, and a few other things—a Supermom.