The reason for the season.
Christmas is all about Jesus. There’s no question about this. It might get a bit trivialized with catchphrases like this but it’s absolutely true. Christmas is about Jesus.
Jesus’ birth is more than a warm story filled with joy and happiness.
To celebrate Christmas, to witness to kids and families about the “reason for the season,” is to see the baby Jesus in the shadow of Calvary’s cross. The two cannot be separated. The true joy of Christmas is about prophecies foretold and the climax of the prophecies to be played out in 33 years.
Why human? Why God? Why Mary? Why Bethlehem?
Human, because Jesus needed to live and fulfill the Law….as a man. He needed to be a perfect man. He needed to be us to save us (Galatians 4:4-5). As man, for payment of sin, He died in payment for our sin (Hebrews 2:14).
God, because his life and death needed to be God-sized to pay for humanity’s sin (Mark 10:45). As God, He overcame death and the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
Mary, because he was human and to fulfill prophecy (Is 7:14).
Bethlehem, to fulfil prophecy (Micah 5:2)
You know all this. These facts center our Christmas celebration.
But consider everything else that has become part of the Christmas season. Gifts, cookies, parties, travel, family and so much more. If Jesus is the reason for the season and our schools are uniquely purposed for sharing Christ, why bother with so much of what often becomes burdensome and takes the joy away from the season?
Consider then, what are the traditions that point us to Jesus? What do we do that help us celebrate Christ’s incarnation?
Gift-giving– The materialism of Christmas marketing certainly is proof of the sinfulness of this world, but giving gifts is a wonderful way to point to Jesus. Jesus is THE gift of Christmas. Giving presents also remind us of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus (which also foreshadow Jesus death). Giving gifts to show love for families and friends also reminds us of the gift of love in Christ. Gift-giving also encourages generosity in our kids.
Christmas tree– A quick survey finds the Christmas tree having all sorts of possible pagan histories. However, German Lutherans like to connect Luther with the Christmas tree. Also, as recently as 2004, Pope John Paul called the Christmas tree a symbol of Christ. This very ancient custom, he said, exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a sign of undying life, and it reminds Christians of the “tree of life” of Genesis 2:9, an image of Christ, the supreme gift of God to humanity. (Zenit News Agency. December 19, 2004).
Lights– Clark Griswold (Christmas Vacation) may overdo it, but Christmas lights can be a striking way to demonstrate light’s overcoming of darkness, something the Gospel writer shares with such depth in John 1 in describing Christ’s entrance into the world and exposing the darkness of sin.
Memorizing the Christmas story and Christmas hymns– Luke 2 and John 1. Micah 5:2. Isaiah 7:14, Galatian 4:4-5. These verses have been memorized and recited every Christmas program and service. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, “Joy to the World”, and “Silent Night”- all songs that share the Gospel and the sheer joy of Jesus birth. Why memorize? Having God’s word quick to mind is invaluable; certainly God’s word is the Spirit’s means of growing faith. But doesn’t it make sense to fill our minds with the riches of the season rather than those things which can distract or deter us from Christ?
Family gatherings- It wasn’t much of a family gathering for Jesus, was it? Step-dad, mom and cattle. However, the hosts of heaven did do a marvelous job of sharing the news and plenty of visitors did show up at Jesus’ birth….some later visitors even brought gifts. The focus was Jesus….and when families gather the focus is probably NOT on Jesus. We may find out quickly WHY Jesus came as bickering occurs, tempers flare and everything and anything squelches the joy of the season. But can those gatherings be about unconditional love? Can they share carols and devotions? Can the generosity of gifts be reflective of the greatest gift of all?
Christmas really is not about feeling all warm inside (look what it did to Frosty the Snowman). Christmas is about Jesus redeeming a broken world. There are plenty of traditions that support a sense of the real meaning of Christmas and here’s to a festive Christmas celebration. Remember, when it comes to Christmas (and for our Lutheran schools), it’s still “all about Jesus.