Christmas is commercialized. We've all heard it before, the Christian ramblings of how Jesus is getting taken out of the equation and that Christmas is a pagan holiday and that we are feeding this culture's materialistic obsession. I would say most blog posts written by Christians are about how Christmas has deteriorated into a cultural phenomena instead of a day and a season to celebrate Christ's birth. But let's take all of that out of the equation and think: as Christians, are we really celebrating what Christmas is about? Are we fully taking in the depth of the meaning of Christ's birth? I have no problem buying lots of Christmas gifts on Black Friday and being excited about decorating my tree and singing All I Want for Christmas is You literally wherever I go. I think there's a certain separation Christians can make between the commercial Christmas and the celebration of Christ. To distinguish this separation is to acknowledge the fun holiday spirit filled with lights and jingle bells and parties and mistletoe, but set aside a separate section of your brain to focus on what the Christian holiday is about.
Here's where we run into a problem. A lot of Christians are so opposed to the commercialization of Christmas that in defying it, they forget to find the actual meaning. They go through their advent calendars, possibly even light candles and do small devotions with their families all during the season, go and sing carols at church; and that's all great. However, what does Christ being born actually mean to us as Christians? Are we simply celebrating the miracle of the virgin Mary conceiving God's son? Are we simply giving glory to God for such a phenomena and wondering at the beautiful story? Are we losing the meaning behind the story, now so overused and reread that we can't even see the truth?
Let me ask you a couple questions before you continue reading. What does the Christmas story mean? Why is it cause for celebration for over a month? I think a lot of common answers would be very Sunday-school-esque: well, Jesus came to earth and became one of us and that is a wonderful miracle of God. Well, Jesus was born into the world to save us and take away our sins. Yes. That is true. But Christmas should not just be a celebration of the birth of Christ; it should be a celebration of the death and resurrection. We do have a separate holiday for that (Easter) but I would argue that the two are very closely related. Christmas means nothing without Easter. Great, Jesus became man and was born of a virgin, that's super cool, God's so powerful. But without the death and resurrection of Christ, his birth is meaningless.
Carols start to lose their meaning after a while, especially to me. Hark the Harold Angels Sing, for example. Why did the angels adore Him? The First Nowell. Why did the shepherds leave their flocks to go see the “newborn king”? We Three Kings. Why did the wisemen travel so far to bring a child gifts? It's not because of His birth necessarily, but because of the sacrifice that was to come. I would urge you to not only celebrate the story of Jesus' birth, but focus as well on why he was born. Getting caught up in the commercialization of Christmas is harmful, but I would say focusing on the Christmas story but losing grasp of its meaning is even worse.
My favorite song is I Am New by Jason Gray. I'm sure that I've mentioned this before in my blog; I'm obsessed. I was listening to it today as I walked past the beautiful Christmas lights on campus, and the meaning struck me hard. Too long have I lived in the shadows of shame, believing that there was no way I could change, but the One who is making everything new doesn't see me the way that I do. That's what Christmas is about. It's about the hope that Christ is making us new, remaking and shaping us, giving us a hope, freeing us from those shadows of shame. He came to earth with that purpose and that purpose only – to give us freedom from ourselves. The chorus of the song is: I'm not who I was, I'm being remade, I am new. I'm chosen and holy and I'm dearly loved, I am new. I am new. I can easily grasp the fact that Jesus' birth is gratified by His death and resurrection, but I think sometimes I forget to understand what that resurrection means. I am new, I'm chosen, I'm holy, I'm dearly loved. I'm dearly loved by that child who was born on Christmas night, I am new because of that worn out and over-told story. This is the hope for the future that the Christmas story presents. The meaning of the birth is far more important than the birth itself; celebrate Easter during Christmas as well.
The rest of this Christmas season, I'm going to remember the good news that Jesus' birth means as I drink my marshmallow-filled hot chocolate and belt that one catchy Britney Spears song. Join me? (on singing Britney Spears, I mean)