It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and the most superficial. Somehow we have managed to take the trappings of Christmas and turn them into the whole focus of the holiday. It’s like we oooh and aaah over a beautifully wrapped gift, but we never bother to open the package to see what treasure is inside it. Let’s take some time to dig deeper and go below the surface of Christmas symbols.
Christmas is magical to young and old alike in part because of all the beautiful lights. We put them up on our houses and on our Christmas trees. Our yards glow with lighted Christmas decorations. Families take outings to see Christmas light displays often coordinated with seasonal music. Light is great, particularly at this time of year when the days are short and natural light is in short supply. But we don’t have a holiday to worship light bulbs. Christmas is about the arrival of the Light of the World. The Christmas story as told in Luke let’s us know that the shepherds saw a bright light–the glory of God. It’s our choice. We spend the holiday focused on the light adorned trees or we can rejoice for the forest of light supplied by our Heavenly Father in sending us His son–the Light of the World.
Christmas lights are outshone in our materialistic society by Christmas gifts. We apparently can’t expect a kiss from our spouse without presenting him/her with a diamond from Kay for the holiday. We stress out about getting the perfect gifts for people on our list and put ourselves in a financial bind by overspending on things no one really needs and often don’t even want. The actual Christmas story does involve gifts brought by the Magi–gold, frankincense and myrrh. Nevertheless, the crux of the Christmas story is not what humans gave the baby Jesus but what God gave the world in sending us His Son. Christmas is a time to reflect upon that gift and to thank God for it–not to hold out our hands and exclaim, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” I mean how could you top receiving a Savior on the first Christmas?
And Christmas gifts can’t just be handed to the recipient. Oh, no! They must be appropriately packaged and decorated with wrapping paper, bows and gift tags. We spend oodles of money on beautiful paper which is expected to be ignored and ripped into pieces and thrown on the floor as quickly as possible by the donee. Does anybody really notice the ribbons other than to complain that they are difficult to get off and impeding our ability to get to the goods? Gift wrap was also a part of the first Christmas, but there were no bow, tags, ribbon or paper. God’s gift to us was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. I don’t think these were designer duds. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were focused on what was wrapped inside and not the outside covering. We don’t follow through at Christmas. We are stuck on the wrap and not what it contains.
And Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without accompanying music. For weeks before the big day we hear Christmas songs on the radio. There’s only so many times you can hear “Deck The Halls” before you want to deck someone. Christmas music adds an air of joy, but just what are we joyous about? The first Christmas had music too, and the reason for the joy was expressly stated. The angels appearing to the shepherds sang “Glory to God” and praised Him. Jesus’ birth provided a wonderful occasion for the heavenly host to break out in song. Instead of mindlessly singing “Joy To The World” let’s think about the reason for the season.
This Christmas, I invite you to “put your thinking caps on,” as my mother would say. Don’t be mindlessly trapped by the trappings of the season. Remember why we have these items at Christmas. Why ask why? Because you’ll miss the whole point if you merely look at the surface. Have a super and meaningful Christmas, not a superficial one.