Do you ever feel like Christmas is getting old? Everything that could be said about Christmas has probably already been said about Christmas. From the cliche Hallmark slogans to the profound theological insights, it’s hard to say anything original or clever about Christmas. It’s probably already been said. You’ve probably heard people bemoan the commercialization of Christmas. You’ve heard “Jesus is the reason for the season!” You’ve heard it all. It’s familiar stuff by now. In fact, it’s just one of those expected things that rolls along every December. It’s old hat. And maybe that’s part of the problem.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Have you heard the Christmas carol that starts out with the line, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”? Of course you have. The song has already been played 100 times by 95% of the radio stations in your area. The song is pretty much a laundry list recitation of nice things about Christmas—things like “kids jingle belling” and “much mistltoeing.” In a way, the songs has it right. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Think about it: half of Christmas joy is the food, right? It’s pig out season. What good is a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, if you haven’t gained at least a solid 15 over Christmas? Then there’s relatives. As I write, my two-your old daughter is ecstatic about making sugar cookies with Grandma. Christmas is wonderful because of family. Christmas is also about gifts. Depending on your budget and penchant for gift-giving, the Christmas tree may be buried under an Everest of gift boxes, wrapping paper, and bows. Giving and receiving are fun. I could protract this joyous list to include hundreds of additional reasons why Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.”
It’s the Most Stressful Time of the Year
But Christmastime is usually not sheer, unmitigated pleasure and joy. There are some downsides. Some of those downsides are really bad traffic, endless check-out lines, and parking a half-mile from the mall entrance. Some are more serious, like weather-related travel problems, or family conflicts. Oh, have you ever heard of the holiday blues? Those happen, too. Christmas can be a really stressful time. Think about it. At Christmas time, you’re preparing a lot of food, buying a lot of gifts, spending a lot of money, doing a lot of cleaning, dealing with an upset schedule, handling the nasty weather, putting up with colds and flus, traveling long distances, trying to keep secrets, listening to worn-out Christmas songs, practicing for the Christmas cantata, trying to think Christian thoughts about Christmas, rushing around to the next Christmas party, doing the dress rehearsal for the Christmas play, digging up some knick-knack for a white elephant gift exchange, wishing you could sleep in, keeping the kids happy and trying to put on an artificial Christmas cheer. It gets old.
Come to think of it, sometimes Christmas itself gets old. You’re almost glad it’s over with. And by the time December 26 rolls around, you know that in just 364 days, there will be another Christmas. It comes every year, just like your kids’ birthdays, your family vacation, your year-end bonus, or tax day. There’s a routine to the recurrence of Christmas. And while routine is good, routine can get monotonous. Like tax day. Like dragging down the artificial Christmas tree from the attic. Stringing up the lights. Listening to “Feliz Navidad” in the mall for the 987th time. Racking your brain for a gift idea for Dad. Sending out the Merry Christmas Family Picture Card.
That’s why Christmas has often turned into “one of those expected things that rolls along every December. It’s old hat. And maybe that’s part of the problem.” Why is that a problem?
Because the first Christmas was anything but routine.
In fact, the first Christmas was an unprecedented smashing of ‘routine.’ There was nothing—absolutely nothing—customary or routine about Christmas number one. It was a culmination of centuries of prophecy, generations of waiting, years of longing, and months of anxiety. From a human perspective, it was an event surrounded by a near-broken engagement, strange dreams, angel visitations, babies leaping in-utero, pregnancy without intimacy, and a seemingly random empire census-taking. It was an event in which a rugged carpenter desperately roamed Bethlehem, searching for a midwife, an inn vacancy, anything to help his betrothed wife who was in labor. It was a night in which a group of poor, shocked shepherds heard an angel choir carol-sing. It was the beginning of the end of the need for animal sacrifices. It introduced the one Person into the world who would upset the social, political, and religious norms.
The event was so important that it marks a great divide in the way we number years—Before Christ (B.C.) and The Year of our Lord (Anno Domini, A.D.). Our Bibles divide into two testaments based on the event. It is the day that Jesus was born. It is the event of the incarnation—God coming as a human. It is one of the the most important days in human history. Its significance is inestimable. Our minds cannot fully grasp how vastly important that day was.
It kind of makes stressing about gift wrap look a little puny in comparison.
Is there any escaping the predictable routine of Christmas? Is there a way to bring a fresh perspective to the 2010-year-old practice of celebrating Christmas, with all its accretions and traditions? Let’s not throw Christmas celebrations out. Let’s rejoice. Let’s redeem this date from the clutches of routine, and recall the genuine essence of Christmas–an unprecedented act of love. A smashing of routine. An invasion of deity as humanity. A turning point.
What can you do to make this Christmas unique, notable, and real?