It is the beginning of the Christmas season. Have you thought about how you will spend Christmas?
Two thousand years ago a Savior was born in a lowly manger. Who was there? Well, Scripture tells us the angels announced his birth to shepherds. The shepherds were filled with wonder as they made their way to Bethlehem to see the infant king. Luke 2:17 indicates the shepherds told others what the angels revealed to them. Interestingly, verse 18 says “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” What I wonder is who were the “all who heard it.” Perhaps the innkeeper, whether of a public inn or the host of a large family establishment, was among those who heard the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all they had seen. Did he regret he’d made no room for Jesus? Did he believe the news he’d heard?
What about the townspeople of Bethlehem? Surely, the shepherds’ news traveled quickly. Were they too busy to hear it? Perhaps, they were asleep as the group, Casting Crowns, sings:
“Oh Bethlehem, what have you missed while you were sleeping. For God became a man and stepped into your world today. Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history as a city with no room for its King, while you were sleeping, while you were sleeping.”
If there were a few townspeople awake, did they acknowledge this baby as the King and consequently, did they allow Him to make a difference in their lives? Did they take the key and let Him in?
My dear sisters in Christ, Jesus’ birth is most worthy of celebration. We do many things in the name of Christmas, some by obligation, others by tradition, and even some because we as a culture are materialistic. May I suggest that we all reflect on the things that keep us so busy during the Christmas season. Ask yourself this question in evaluating these activities and traditions- Does this allow my family and I to turn the key to let Him in? Some things simply do not. They serve to busy us into forgetting whose celebration this is anyway. Every year, more and more of Jesus is stamped out of Christmas traditions in this decaying world we live in. This is all the more reason we need to re-think how we celebrate Christmas. We need to be light like Jesus in the midst of darkness. Consider John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” We need to be awake-- not asleep to turn the key and let Jesus in to our abodes.
There are traditions that many in secular society as well as Christian circles celebrate that my family does not. Some things are neutral while other things in my personal opinion take away from Christ. Now, it is my firm belief that we as Christians should give grace to each other by of course allowing different opinions and practices occur in these somewhat grey areas. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Thus, we likewise should extend grace. Therefore, I don’t want to address specific traditions. However, I would like to point out one particular thing to ponder about Santa Claus. Noel Piper, in her book, Treasuring Christ in our Traditions, makes a comparison of some of the attributes of Santa. Have you ever thought about the fact that children are taught that Santa is all-knowing, giver of good gifts, and can pretty much be omnipresent (he’d have to if he can deliver presents to all the children everywhere in the world in a single night)! Jesus is all these things. Noel goes on to say though that children don’t understand where Santa and Jesus are different. She says, the major difference is that Jesus loved us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), not like Santa because we’d been good. Just think about that for a second. It is really profound. So, my friends, I am not going to say you should or shouldn’t include Santa in your traditions, but I would caution you to be extra careful in how you handle him in your traditions, being certain that your children and grandchildren are hearing a whole lot more of Jesus’ birth as central to this holy day.
Our children and grandchildren need to observe an attitude of eager anticipation from us as we celebrate our Savior’s birth. It is a most wonderful time to reflect on what God has done and what he has promised for the future. I love the passages of Scripture in Luke that tell about the devout and most elderly man, Simeon, as well as the prophetess Anna. When I read Luke 2:25-38, I get such a sense of grateful expectation from these beloved people of God. They’d waited years for the Messiah’s birth and their reward was to cast their eyes on the Savior. Simeon says in verse 34-35, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” That is what Christmas is all about, a remarkable birth for a very specific reason, to die and rise again, to save us from our sin that we might be reconciled to God. May we be like Simeon and Anna, eagerly waiting for Christ because we are promised He will return.
Three Christmas seasons ago, I was approaching Christmas in the midst of depression. For my family, mental illness is somewhat rampant, so it is no big surprise that it manifests itself as depression from time to time for me. Anyway, it was a difficult time for me. I was blue and my special needs child was having new symptoms of which we were greatly concerned. All kinds of tests were being run. Our adopted daughter was especially needy due too many years of institutional living, and there of course were two other children needing our love and care. I was overwhelmed to put it mildly. It was a time of crying out to God to be my ever present help in trouble. I needed tangible ways to remind me of His closeness that Christmas. I believe He spoke to my need and my heart that Christmas. An idea was planted probably years before, and this particular Christmas I pulled out that idea and put it to use. That year I asked my children what they thought of making our main tree a Jesus only tree. They surprised me by an enthusiastic “YES” in unison. So, with the oldest three in tow we went shopping--- I thought it would be easy, but oh was it hard. You see, ornaments reflecting Jesus, are almost rare. Maybe that is the way it should be as He is a “treasure” for sure. We got out old Christmas cards, cut them up and made our own. We bought a couple dozen glass balls and wrote the names of Jesus on them. I explained to a friend when out shopping for ornaments that “We just need more JESUS this year.” But, friends don’t we all.
I tell you my story not to convince you to do the same. Instead, I tell it to you because this is just one way we’ve found to help us have a Christ-centered focus for such a holy day and season. Find ways, whether it is in the decorating, serving, family discussions, reading, activities, maybe even in simplifying traditions/activities that will reflect His love, the light we have in Christ, and most importantly the hope and the glory of His return. The time passes quickly in our fast-paced society. We must be intentional. I encourage you to not let Christmas pass without time for Christ-centered reflection.
Take home your silver key as a reminder to “Let Him In” this year. May we not be like the innkeeper with no room for Jesus. May we all yearn for still more of JESUS this Christmas and all the year through. My oldest writes beautiful poetry. I’ll close with his poem the “Key,”
It was a very long night
When this world got the light
And the sky did shine
When two weary people came to the door
Joseph’s eyes were tired
And Mary’s womb was worn
The Christ child to be born
So they stopped at an inn
Somewhere in Bethlehem
The innkeeper would not let them in
He would not turn the key
Little did he ever know
He rejected the key to Eternity.