It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…?

As Thanksgiving fades in the rearview mirror, so many concerns have popped up about the coming of Christmas.

One friend felt crushed beneath the financial burden of everyone she was “supposed” to give gifts to.

Another woman wrung her hands with anxiety as she dreaded her turn to host the entire family get together, consisting of meals and space for nearly 60 people.

Yet another expressed her immense guilt over receiving gifts, confessing she didn’t feel worthy of any of them.

It’s no surprise then, that as the weather gets colder and more barren, so do our hearts and wallets.  So how are we supposed to be joyous?  How can we possibly consider the coming of Christmas to be the “most wonderful time of the year”?

Well, for starters, I want to send a reminder that we are not celebrating the coming of Christmas.  We are celebrating the coming of Christ.

In today’s world, that concept almost feels mundane.  The coming of Christ?  The baby Jesus?  Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard that before.  Yawn.  Give us something new.  Like a shiny new iPhone 6 or something that’s actually exciting.

But since I’ve entered my adult life, I’ve spent each Christmas transporting myself to a time before the name “Jesus” was cheapened by commercialism.  I try, oh so brokenly, to put myself in the place of the early Jews.  To imagine myself trapped and oppressed the way they were.  Trapped by Eve’s decision to eat an apple and forever give birth to the concept of original sin.  Oppressed as slaves until Moses led them in the Exodus from Egypt.  Trapped by dusty dessert storms and aimless wandering.  Trapped and oppressed by the Assyrians and Babylonians who conquered them and destroyed their land.  And, oppressed eventually by other worldly leaders such as King Herod (at the time of Jesus’s birth) and the Romans (at the time of Jesus’s death).

In a nutshell, the entire Jewish ancestry – as well as their foreseeable future – was marked by one thing: Unbreakable, oppressive chains.

It’s no wonder then, they hoped from the depths of their underprivileged souls for the coming of someone who could break those chains.  Someone who could free them and give them life.  Someone whose arrival was predicted by the Jewish prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6):

A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler.  He will be called “Wonderful Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Eternal Father”, “Prince of Peace”.  His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time.

That one verse, the promised coming of a Master with the keys to my chains, is enough to set my soul on fire. Who, in his dire state of domination, would not physically ache for this child’s birth?  Who would not give everything they had – though it may be little – to catch a glimpse of this future king in the flesh?  To witness, if only for a moment, the personification of Hope?

So, yes, I understand there’s lots of things playing into this Christmas season.  There’s the family visits which may require traveling (and the funds to travel); the cooking and cleaning if you’re the Martha who’s hosting those family get togethers; the buying, wrapping, and exchanging of gifts; the obligation of getting the right things for the right people; and the “merriness” of the season, even if that merriness is simply a sea of fake smiles.

But that’s not Christmas.  That’s Giftmas, with a capital G.  That’s the “spirit” we’ve been conditioned to produce.  The “spirit” that helps us keep up with the Jonses, at least for a day.  Until that “spirit” leave us breathless, exhausted, and broken on the floor surrounded by crumpled sheets of wrapping paper and the dread of the coming year.

Perhaps it’s consumerism at its ugliest.  Maybe it’s materialism at its worst.  But whatever it is, it’s not Jesus.  And because of that, it cannot be Christmas.

So to those of you who don’t feel worthy of the gifts beneath your tree, guess what?  You’re not.

You’re worthy of so much more. 

You’re worthy of a King who came to save, to bring hope.  You’re worthy of the only King who can release you of those exact same societal, spiritual, and emotional burdens that weigh so heavily on you.  You’re worthy of the child who was born to us – the child who came to break those unbreakable chains around your wrists.

And because of that, I can truly wish you a Merry Christmas.

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