As I write, the lyrics to a popular Christmas tune have begun running through my head. â€œItâ€™s the most, wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer! Itâ€™s the most wonderful time of the year.â€ While the joy detailed in this song is normally how I feel at Christmastime, this year Iâ€™m having a little trouble â€œgetting in the holiday spirit.â€
Christmas shopping is perhaps the main thing thatâ€™s frustrating me. I started working on my list last week by purchasing one of the â€œThatâ€™s My Pan!â€ products the youth group is selling for a friend but Iâ€™ll be honest, I havenâ€™t a clue what to get for anyone else. I donâ€™t want to get junk. I want to purchase meaningful, useful, memorable gifts. Iâ€™ve looked online and in catalogues and stores and come out of them all with a blank. And thereâ€™s only approximately 40 shopping days left! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!
In the United States, we spend $450 billion on Christmas presents each year. But the point of Christmas is not gift-giving or decorating or eating. The point of Christmas is Christ. God loves us wretched, messed-up humans so much that he was willing to send his one and only son to die a horrible, painful death, in order that we might be in relationship with him (John 3:16). In restoring our relationship with God, Jesus also made it possible for our relationships with other humans to be deeper and truer.
We should have an unscratchable itch inside us that needs to thank God for the gift of Jesus. We could give God a million gifts in order to do so. We could purchase him the biggest and brightest and best each year, but it would have no effect. What God wants is our hearts. If our hearts are really his, then true generosity (to both God and humans) will follow.
Another pastor introduced me to a growing internet movement called the Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.com). Check it out â€“ itâ€™s fascinating (itâ€™s also a utube video and if you donâ€™t have internet access, ask me for more info). The basic idea is what Iâ€™ve been writing about: when Christmas becomes about rushing, checking-off lists, grabbing presents and trying to make everything perfect, it will feel hollow and shabby. What if we refocused on the true purpose of Christmas â€“ Christ? If we choose to do so, our goals will shift from giving and getting and onto relationships. First and foremost working on our relationship with God and as enriching our relationships with our fellow humans â€“ and not just those we already know and love. Focusing on the true meaning of Christmas will require us to reach out to those we havenâ€™t ever meet.
Make Christ the reason you celebrate Christmas. To help you do so, weâ€™ve published an Advent Devotional with weekly Bible readings, carols, thoughts to ponder and creative projects to help you focus on the real reason for the season. Pick one up in the Narthex starting November 30 or call the office if youâ€™d like us to mail you one. Or why not read through the nativity stories found in the Gospels (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2:20 and John 1:1-18)? Remind yourself why Christ is the purpose of Christmas through these retellings of the events surrounding Jesusâ€™ birth. Need another suggestion? Borrow a hymnal for the month and delve into carols and hymns. The Advent Conspiracy website has other suggestions. Do something to make your Christmas meaningful and Christ-centered.