I love Google… one of those modern conveniences spoiling our poor children – like the microwave was for us. Anyway, in preparation for this blog post I decided to google “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” just to see what I would find. I had my answer, but I was curious to see what was out there, both from the Christian and Non-Christian point of view. What I found after just a few clicks was the exact opposite of what I was looking for. Scott Ashley, United Church of God pastor, wrote a post entitled “Top Ten Reasons Why I don’t Celebrate Christmas.” I must admit I felt a range of emotions while reading his article. They began with me comparing him to my dad – Dad was always a bit of a scrooge and we probably wouldn’t have had Santa Claus at our house if it wasn’t for Mom. They moved into agreement and, honestly, on to place where my own research and prayer-searching will take place. He made some very valid and interesting points, many of which just are providing my motivation for this very post.
He was right, and like my daddy also says, Christmas is too commercialized. And yes it involves many pagan traditions. And no, Christmas is never actually mentioned in the Bible. We are not commanded to celebrate Christmas. So why do we celebrate Christmas?
I mean, for most of us, while Christmas is a very joyful time of year, it seems that those joyful moments are surrounded by many stressful moments and decisions. It involves meeting expectations we don’t always agree with. It means doing our best to meet our kids growing list of wishes or worse making a deliberate decision not to. It means lonely moments for some and awkward family moments for others.
As Christians, our reasons for celebrating Christmas have definitely gotten covered up in many, many layers of Christmas clutter, which is why this topic is necessary. We need a nice reminder of why we celebrate Christmas. I mean I cannot begin to assume what those in the 4th century were thinking when they decided to celebrate Christmas, but I would like to think they at least had Christ in mind. I would like to think that they began the celebration in honor and remembrance of Christ’s birth.
Which is where our priorities need to refocus as we get started on this crazy ride we have deemed the “Christmas Season.” For Christians, in the middle of all the commercialized chaos, we should have one priority – to worship Jesus, our Risen King.
First and foremost, Christmas should be about worship.
Yes, I will get lost in the shopping crowds on Black Friday. I will rush to holiday parties and fret over what to wear and what to bring. I will contemplate the best present for kin I see once a year. I will complain about the grocery bill and worry over what to cook for Christmas breakfast. I know I will probably do all the things that makes the season stressful, but that doesn’t mean I can’t turn each moment into a moment of worship, a moment I can use to honor and respect Jesus and the overwhelming love He showers on us, especially through His birth and death.
When I am out shopping I can marvel at the abundance of our country and I can greet each shopper and, even better, clerk with the love of Jesus. If I am lucky and I also drink coffee and catch the sunrise, all acts I can worship through. I can thank Jesus for the friends I will celebrate with at each holiday party. I can enjoy the blessings of a full closet and a full pantry that make decisions more difficult to make. I can thank God for a large family that brought me many blessing and for the opportunity to show them how much I appreciate it all. Instead of complaining about the grocery bill, I will thank God for the job I have and the ability to work so that I can afford all the groceries that will be transformed into Christmas goodies. While we tend to focus on the stress the holiday brings, it is our abundance that allows for that stress, abundance can and should be turned around and used to worship God.
Looking back at Jesus’s birth, we see multiple acts of worship modeled for us. First, we see the angels appear to the shepherds. I mean, the shepherds were at work. They may have been fussing about having the night shift or maybe some sheep were doing something stupid. I am sure they were being human, just like we are, and they were thrust into an opportunity of worship. The angels appeared – I bet their beauty alone was enough to lead to worship – but then they shared the good news of Jesus’s birth and lead in their own worship of the Christ Child. In Luke 2 it says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” And what did the shepherds do after that? They left the field and went to find Jesus. I can only imagine that experience. I can only imagine the act of worship that took place while in His presence, even after they left I am sure the emotions lingered. I am sure they were changed.
They give us a great example to follow. If we are paying attention, we too will find opportunities to worship in our everyday life. In the middle of work, in the middle of the grocery store, in the middle of whatever is stressing us out. You will probably not have a heavenly host to get your attention, but stop and pay attention. Listen to what the Spirit is trying to say – What is significant about this moment? And after you embrace that moment of worship, that moment of honoring God, do as the shepherds did and go and find Jesus. As soon as you are able, go spend some time in prayer and Bible study. Grow and mature that moment of worship into an experience that you can go back to and find life in. Let it be an experience that feeds your soul, that refocuses you on the reason for the season, and allows you to spread the worship mentality. Let it be a moment that changes you.
And then we see the wise men. They knew the star signified something special. They told King Herod that they have come to worship the new king. And after much fuss, when they finally make it to Jesus, look at what the scriptures tell us, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.” Fell down. The realization of the Child’s greatness caused them to fall down and worship. And then they gave Jesus gifts, all pointing towards his prophesied life.
The wise men also give us a great example to follow. They changed their plans when they saw the star. They made sacrifices to go find Jesus. They made sacrifices, I am sure, to bring Jesus gifts, special, significant gifts. As much as Christmas seems to be about abundance, we should also make Christmas about sacrifice. Sacrifice is an act of worship. The wise men sacrificed in order to serve Jesus. Service is an act of worship.
How can we do the same? How can we sacrifice and serve Jesus during this holiday season? I am sure there a toy drives and soup kitchens that would love your sacrifice and service, but are there more personal opportunities? When the wise men showed up and met Mary and Jesus, it was a very personal moment. Find a lonely widow to serve. Find a less fortunate family to invite over. Just spend time encouraging and praying for someone. If you are not sure who you need to serve in Jesus’s name this season, pray about it and God will lead you. God chose to lead the wise men with a star, and he will lead you too.
And if you are really don’t feel like you are in a place to sacrifice and serve this holiday season, I understand. If this is the first holiday after the loss of a loved one or after the loss of a job, you may already feel like you have sacrificed… but pray about it. Ask for God’s guidance and strength. There is nothing like worship, through service, to help you refocus and rejuvenate.
So just remember, Bethlehem was busy. Crowded. No room to be found. The shepherds were working. They had a job to do. The wise men were lied to. They were scared. They were caught in the middle. Despite all these circumstances – circumstances that sound all too current – each of these found opportunity to worship. Despite the season. Despite the circumstances. Despite the excuses, they all worshipped. They all modeled exactly what we should be doing. Worshipping.
So during this crazy season, remember why we should be celebrating in the first place. More importantly remember WHO we are celebrating… And what is the best way to celebrate Jesus – through worship.