Over the last few years, it seems like I have struggled every year around this time. Internally, I fight between what I have always known Christmas to be (and what the world tells me it is) and what my heart feels Christmas truly is. I get caught up in all of the commercialism, all of the gift-buying, all of the secret shopping and time away from loved ones. The constant search for Christmas perfection.
And then I fight within myself — why am I doing this? Why can’t I just stay home, bask in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, watch movies or play games with loved ones? Or why don’t I spend my shopping time giving back, rather than buying for those who already have so much in comparison? Why do I spend money trying to make Christmas huge and magical when the actual idea of Christmas is already huge and magical?! I strive for Christmas perfection, but Christmas is perfect just the way it is.
Our world is filled with sinners, including myself. We focus on our desires, rather than what is important. We want the biggest TV to watch the football game on, rather than just enjoying the time with family and friends — while watching that football game. When we clean out our closet, we let others have first dibs on the best clothes, then take the leftovers to those in need. We go into the store and spend $279.00 on presents, then drop just a few remaining coins in the salvation army tin outside.
Why do we do this?
I shouldn’t have to fight within myself. I know what is right, but I still can’t help myself — I still get swept away in the commercialism of today’s Christmas. I am sure there are others out there that feel this way, too.
I often imagine a simple Christmas. One filled with love and fellowship and celebration of the birth of Jesus. I’d like a Christmas where we forget all the hustle and bustle and just be. I find this hard to do because we all grow at different times and in different ways. We have all been taught all our lives what Christmas looks like — so it is not an easy thing to change. Have you ever seen the Hallmark movie, Christmas in Canaan? It is one of my favorites to watch this time of year. In Canaan, they feel that everyone “deserves a little Christmas,” even though they cannot afford to buy gifts. So they wrap up a picture cut out of a magazine, showing what they would give for Christmas if they could afford it. It is the thought and the story behind the picture that actually means more than the real item ever could.
Jesus wasn’t born anywhere fancy — he came to us in a manger. Humble and simple. And all the while we strive for perfection — the perfect tree, perfect gift, perfect feast, even the perfect ugly sweater! When the truth is, God made us perfect WITH our imperfections. We are perfect just the way we are and Christmas is perfect just as it is. We do not need to spend so much time, money, and energy striving for perfection. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5:48 (NIV)
We need to learn to just love — it is the greatest gift — and let everything else go. Besides, something tells me that if Jesus were standing here, he would shake his head at us for all of the hoopla over his birthday. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45 (NIV)
I leave you with a new song I discovered this season, I Need a Silent Night by Amy Grant.
“…December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?
Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace…”