Yes. A peaceful, happy holiday is what most of us desire during the Season of Advent; but unfortunately for many of us, peace is the last thing we get! First, there are presents to buy. For many of us, we calculate how much money we can afford to spend. Then we decide how we will split this total by all the people we want to buy presents for. Then we figure out what exactly to buy the special people in our lives within our preset spending limit for each person. Whew, and this doesn’t even take into account driving through holiday traffic, wading through store crowds, ordering online, going through checkout lines, keeping our gifts secret, and wrapping each gift!
Second, there is a Christmas feast to prepare. We have to agree on who will host our Christmas gathering this year. Then we decide what each of us will contribute. Will the host or hostess put on this feast by themselves? Who will pay? Will we all contribute money or will we all bring something? If so, what should we bring and how much?
Thirdly, for some people, we must decide how we will get to our Christmas gathering? Is the party in town or will we drive out of town? Will we need to take a flight? How will we get our Christmas presents and food to our Christmas gathering? And there is still so much more to do. How will we decorate the house? Will we put Christmas lights outside? Are we having fun yet?
Of course I know that not everyone’s Christmas goes quite like this. Some people are out of a job. Others have families living too far away to go visit. Others don’t have much family living. The variations are endless! So it is clear that the holidays can be an individually stressful time of year.
So why do we do it?
Today, while I attended church, I remembered why we celebrate Christmas every year with all the attendant sacrifices required. It came to me as I watched the children at church perform a brief Christmas play. It was clear by the hustle and bustle when I arrived at church how stressful the whole thing was for them – even for the adults. There were people setting up a manger scene. There were people spreading hay. There were kids dressed as cows, sheep, shepherds, kings, Romans, angels, etc….
Nonetheless, for a brief period of time, we were all taken back to a humble birth described in scripture. We contemplated how God loved us so much that he would send his Son to be incarnated as the human being named Jesus. We remembered that the purpose for Jesus’ birth was to make us right with God. Thus Jesus was a precious gift that God bestowed on humanity for a brief period of time. During this time, Jesus taught us what God is really like. God is loving, gentle, merciful, and just. During this time, Jesus taught us what God expects of us – to love him above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Thus Christmas is not about money. It is not about what we get as gifts. It isn’t about what we give. It isn’t about our Christmas meal or how perfect our decorations look. It isn’t even about seeing our families. Christmas is about love and God’s gift of love to humanity in and through Christ.