Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year and also the most wearing. We’ve done it to ourselves. The celebration of the birth of a baby in a stable has been turned into an extravaganza complete with parades, pageants, presents, parties and plenty to eat. But bigger is not always better. In fact, the bigger we make our Christmas, the less likely it is that we are celebrating the real reason for the season. Ask yourself which mode truly captures the essence of the first Christmas–a simple celebration or holiday hoopla?
The first Christmas looked absolutely nothing like Christmas today. There was no Santa looking for chimneys in Bethlehem. There was no Christmas tree in the lobby of the No Room Inn. There were no blinking lights shining around the fields where the shepherds were tending their flocks. There were no presents for Mary and Joseph in the stable–just the presence of their newborn baby boy.
The Christmas for which you and I are preparing is a far cry from what happened a couple of thousand years ago in a small town in another part of the world. Our Christmas is full of trappings–and that’s the trap. The trappings are not, as the Grinch found out, what Christmas is really all about. Christmas is the simple (but amazing) story of the birth of a baby, God’s son, in a humble stable. If the story is simple, why don’t we celebrate it simply then?
I have been challenged by a recent sermon to experience the miracle of simplicity at Christmas this year. Since failing to plan is planning to fail, the best way to meet this challenge is to devise a concrete plan for a simple celebration. Scaling back Christmas is no simple task; nevertheless, these are the guidelines I set for myself.
No mass mailing of Christmas cards. While I love communicating with my friends and family, sending numerous Christmas cards is a time-consuming activity which detracts from the point of the celebration. I get frazzled in choosing just the right card, getting the cards mailed in a timely fashion and determining whom to include (or delete) from last year’s mailing list. Moreover, I am tempted to enclose the trendy Christmas newsletter which informs the world of the good news of what is happening in my life. Wait a minute! Christmas isn’t my story; it is HIS story. It’s pretty disrespectful to blather on about my accomplishments and activities when the day belongs to someone else.
Minimal decorations. If the Whos in Whoville could have a joyous Christmas without any decorations, why do I have to have my house decorated to the max? Answer? I don’t. So far, I have an advent wreath on the entryway table, an Advent calendar hanging in the kitchen, and two small real trees as yet undecorated. Period. That’s way more than Mary and Joseph had up in the stable. I could spend time decorating or I could spend time reading the Christmas story in the Bible and thanking God for all the blessings He’s bestowed upon me.
Purge perfection. Unless you are Jesus, perfection is simply unattainable. So why do I still aim for it? I have to pick out the perfect present for each family member, plan the perfect holiday meal, etc. Laugh if you will, but tonight I actually spent half on hour on Pinterest looking for a recipe for the perfect finger food to make for a Christmas event–an edible that someone will look at for about 5 seconds and then devour. Why not focus on the One who is perfect and loved me enough to be born in a stable rather than on making my holiday perfect?
I could go on to make a perfect list of all I need to do to make celebrating Christmas simple this year, but then my focus is not on the simplicity of what (actually WHO) has brought joy to our world. Yes, the Whos in Whoville got this one right. Christmas is about WHO and not WHAT (trees, decorations, presents, activities, etc.) We’ve already received a perfect present in the form of Jesus; the perfect way to celebrate His birth is simply to focus on Him and His love for us. Don’t get caught up in the holiday hoopla.
Just WONDER-ing: What could you do to make your celebration of Christmas simpler?