Charlie Brown had the right idea when he asked, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
I’ve enjoyed all the recipes and musical suggestions, the stories and the decorations, the sermons and the traditions as I’ve read through the blog posts for the Blog Advent Tour. I love the tinsel and lights on the Christmas tree, the fudge and the stuffing, the stockings that hang by the chimney with care, shopping especially if I can do it online, movies like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street, presents and ribbons and Santa Claus and Christmas cheer. It’s a full and overflowing time of year, and I fall under the spell of Christmas just as easily as any other sentimental sucker. We do it all: decorate the tree, hang the Christmas cards, buy and wrap gifts for a family of ten, bake cookies and attend parties and go caroling and read books . . . the list is exhaustive and exhausting and mostly fun.
But it’s not enough. A young friend of mine, in her twenties, has, as they say, “lost her faith.” I admit to a certain lack of sympathy for young people who have been taught the message of the gospel and seen it modeled, albeit imperfectly, and yet choose to let go of the truth, most times without even a whimper of protest or intense study to fight against the loss of the most precious thing that this life has to offer: the love and concern of the God of the universe as demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of His Son. If it even might be true, isn’t it worth reading a few books and asking some questions to ascertain that truth? How can anyone “lose” such a precious thing as faith in a God who loves and cares for us so carelessly, like dropping a penny or a dime on the sidewalk and not even making the effort to pick it up?
Anyway, my friend, call her Sara, has lost her faith. So, I asked her what she is celebrating this Christmas. If you don’t believe in God and don’t trust in the miracle of Jesus, who is and was that very God incarnate, then what is Christmas all about? She said she wants to celebrate family and friends, that she has a good family and she just wants to have a good Christmas with them. Only one problem, my friend and her family are somewhat estranged because of Sara’s lifestyle choices. Oh, they’ll have Christmas together, probably enjoy a good meal and presents, but it won’t be a Hallmark Christmas because Sara and her family aren’t on TV with a script. They’re real messy people with real messy issues, and ultimately Family isn’t a substitute for a Saviour.
Neither is Stuff or Glitter or Conservatism or Liberalism or the New Millennium or Church or Food or Nature or any of the other dozens of things that we sometimes try to substitute for the true meaning of Christmas. Without Jesus, Christmas is an empty shell, not much to celebrate. Some of us can keep the shell game going for a long time; some even choose the empty shells instead of working to hang onto the real thing. But Christmas is about Christ, even if he wasn’t really born in December, even if you have questions and doubts, even if you’re messy or suffering or full of fear and even depression.
You can celebrate an empty Christmas and try to fill it yourself with material things and friends and family and whatever else happens to come along, but eventually, one Christmas, I predict that you’ll come up with a hollow place right at the center of your Christmas, right at the center of your life. And the only one who can fill that hole is Jesus Himself, the Word made Flesh who came to live among us full of grace and truth. If you don’t believe in that Truth, if you’re not sure Jesus really came to save sinners, then it’s worth your time and energy and material wealth to go on a search to find out if it might, possibly, maybe, under any circumstances be true after all.
On this Christmas Eve, I wish you a full Christmas, full of grace and truth, full of Jesus. Because He’s what Christmas is all about.