Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Has Jesus Been Lost in Christmas?

It seems like at least one person every year (at Christmas) tells me that they are removing all decorations and ‘Christmas stuff’ from their home that does not relate directly to Jesus and His birth. Throwing out all ‘Santa Claus’ decorations, elves, tinsel, mistletoe, etc. Removing those ‘snowy scenes’ and holly branches and snowmen.
I also noticed the other day while sitting in the barber’s chair that the barber shop’s Christmas decorations consisted solely of holly leaves, Christmas lights, and candy canes. And the malls are piping in ‘Christmas’ music like White Christmas, and I’ll Be Home For Christmas.
There can be no dispute that Christmas has become over-commercialized or that the ‘accoutrements’ of the ‘holiday’ have overtaken the meaning of the holiday to many (if not most) folks. So much emphasis is placed on gift buying, going to parties, eating, and just general ‘holiday merriment’.
It would certainly appear that Jesus often gets lost.
But did you know that there is some biblical precedent for Jesus getting lost in the fun and festivities surrounding holiday celebrations? That’s right – in Luke 2:41-50 is the story of Mary and Joseph ‘losing’ Jesus during the Passover celebration and not discovering that He was missing for a whole day. Mary and Joseph weren’t terrible parents for losing Jesus. They just got so caught up in the celebrations, catching up with old friends and relatives, and holiday coming-and-going that they lost sight of Jesus. And they left him behind.
So maybe it’s not just Santa Claus that makes us lose sight of Jesus. Maybe snowmen aren’t the main culprit, either. Perhaps mounds of garland and mistletoe aren’t what is covering up and hiding Jesus.
Perhaps – just maybe – Jesus gets lost because we lose sight of Him. He doesn’t wander away from us, we leave Him behind.
I don’t think it’s a matter of focusing on other things. I think it’s a matter of losing focus on Him. We don’t have to focus on Santa Claus to lose our focus on Jesus. And we don’t have to remove any and all ‘non-Jesus’ Christmas decorations to keep focused on Jesus.
We know that Christmas isn’t about exchanging gifts, Christmas trees, figgy pudding, sleigh bells, and the North Pole. It’s not about egg nog, chestnuts roasting, my two front teeth, or toys drives for orphans.
Christmas is about a miracle. No - it’s about THE Miracle.
When we truly understand the miracle of Christmas, we can use and enjoy all of those cultural ‘holiday’ decorations, songs, and foods to point us back to Jesus. They can be used to remind us of ‘Christmas’ and ‘Christmas’ should always remind us to focus on the Miracle of Christmas.
The miracle of Christmas is not that a baby was born to a virgin. It’s not about the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. It’s not about ‘peace’ and ‘goodwill’ and happiness and joy.
The miracle of Christmas is that the Almighty, perfect, holy, pre-existent God and Creator of all things was willing – no, not just willing, but desirous of reaching out to His creation. And not just reaching out but actually taking on the form of a human being. And to take on that lowly human form He temporarily stepped away from His rightful throne of majesty, honor, and preeminence.
God became a baby.
That is so totally beyond the realm of possibility that it could be nothing other than a miracle.
The Miracle.
It doesn’t really bother me if you get reminded of that miracle by Santa Claus figurines, inflatable reindeer in your front yard, stockings on your fireplace mantle, erroneous and/or unbiblical Nativity scenes, or Elvis singing I’ll Have a Blue Christmas. (I have a hard time seeing how a song like Santa Baby can get you re-focused on the miracle of the Incarnation, but maybe that works for you.)
While acknowledging that it is not the accurate etymology of the word ‘Christmas’, I find it helpful to think of ‘Christmas’ as the ‘Christ Miracle’. So, whatever prompts me to think ‘Christmas’, I try to remind myself to think of the ‘Christ Miracle’.
And that helps me keep from losing Jesus.
But even when I do lose sight of Him, I know He is still with me. He will never leave me.
That’s a continuation of the Christmas Miracle.
And they will call His name Immanuel – which means God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

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