Celebrate the Meaning
Just like Snoopy from the original Charlie Brown Christmas Special, it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re celebrating. Do you guys know what I’m talking about? Charlie Brown sees Snoopy’s doghouse all blinged out and despairs, “My own dog has gone commercial!”
The scholarly pessimist in Kristianna thinks that we’ve always had this coming.
December 25th is a holiday that was appropriated from pagan culture. (We can estimate when Jesus was born by counting backward from his death on Passover, Nisan 14 in the spring of the year 33 A.D. (John 19:14-16) Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his three-and-a-half-year ministry, so he was born in the early fall of 2 B.C. (Luke 3:23)
So why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th?
The Encyclopædia Britannica says that church leaders probably chose it “to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun,” at the time of the winter solstice. According to The Encyclopedia Americana, many scholars believe that this was done “in order to make Christianity more meaningful to pagan converts.”
So what? Fascinating to know but WE DON’T THINK THAT JESUS CARES! Seriously. We think He’s delighted that we celebrate His birth! All of history changed with God coming to earth!
So how do we do this? How do we refocus our gaze on our Beloved in the midst of a culture that is pushing so hard to shift it off of Him?
As always, talk to the Lord about it. Your families look different than ours do; Jesus is going to have different ideas and suggestions for each of us.
1. Be Counter-Cultural
John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Embrace the reality that if you intentionally put Jesus at the center of your celebration, you might seem weird to people around you, certainly to the current culture at large. For centuries we have been blessed, in this part of the world, to have the freedom to practice and demonstrate our faith; that freedom may not be something that you always have. We have taken for granted that “other” people like or support our celebration of Jesus’ birth. Don’t. Being a Believer means accepting that you will face hatred and persecution. We don’t mean to be dramatic, but if you want to truly celebrate Jesus’ birth, it’s no longer normal.
We’re going to have to be deliberate about the choices that we make.
Think about how you can incorporate the liturgical calendar into your month. Do you want to celebrate Advent and teach your kids about Epiphany? Whatever we land on, if we’re going to emphasize the reason for the season, we’re going to have to be intentional about it and put in the time to bring ALL of our attentions back to celebrating Jesus.
If we don’t want to participate in commercialism or the “feel good” version of Christmas, we’re going to have to talk about the purpose and meaning of a time of year that we celebrate as being Holy, sacred, set apart to Remember. In everything you do, whether it’s a yule log or a Christmas tree or cookies or caroling, take the time to talk about WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.
2. Family Traditions
Creating family traditions is a great starting place! Get an Advent Calendar that you can go through each day with your family. Find a candlelight service to go to. Take time to tell the story of Jesus’ birth throughout the whole month. Pull your kids, your friends, into the incredible mystery and glory and unbelievable love of a God that would come to earth to be near His children and bring them back into His family. Find curriculum or children’s books, get resources. Go to places where Christmas hymns are sung. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our families entered December with an expectation that it was normal to celebrate Jesus the whole month long?
3. Build Momentum
An amazing way to highlight the importance of an event is to create expectation in advance of said event! Start in November, start whenever seems right, start by telling the story of God’s great love, talk about Jesus’ part in it. Talk about the longing of Israel for a savior. Talk about the prophecies in Isaiah. Make it a weekly event. Make it fun. Pop some popcorn and watch a movie that tells the birth of Jesus. Celebrate the joy of history changing, of God drawing us into His narrative, of His faithfulness to us. Of the incredible sacrifice of God becoming flesh.
Talk about redemption!
5. Make Your Plan
Write down your ideas, get out the calendar, and think about what you have the capacity to do. Even if you’re just now planning for NEXT year, that is awesome! Above all, pursue peace as you pursue the Prince of Peace.