Monday, December 24, 2007

The Meaning of Christmas

I haven't really been in the "spirit" for Christmas this year. It's driving me crazy because normally I'm all about Christmas. Giving gifts to friends and family. Christmas cards. All the good food. Spending time with family and friends. Christmas carols. I usually drive everyone crazy because I start listening to Christmas music in October! Every year I always write out my own Christmas card, print them and mail them. I love to cook and normally have cooked non stop by this time of year.

But this year has been different. I've hardly listened to Christmas music. I didn't send out cards. Even shopping for gifts this year was a chore. I haven't cooked a ton of food. It's just been weird. And it's not been me.

But as I sit to write this blog, I realize that, as important and fun as all those things are, they are not really, truly what Christmas is about. Those things and traditions are a part of Christmas...but they are not the reason for it.

I collect Nativity sets. I put as many out as I can each year at Christmas. And I'm afraid that at times, this year included, I have simply put them out as collectibles. I haven't taken the time to really think about what they represent. Oh, I know they depict the birth of Christ. But do I really take the time to think about what that really means? And sadly enough, I don't always do that.

This year I watched "The Nativity Story" for the first time. And I've watched it twice so far. It brought me back to the realization of what this season is all about. I watched the struggle that Mary and Joseph went through for this baby. I saw the faith that they both had, even in the midst of judgement from others. I saw the joy on their face when they realized that she had just given birth to the Savior. And I wanted that joy. That was the moment that touched me the most, that brought tears to my eyes. The realization that God - eternal, all powerful, great God - loved me enough to risk it all to come save me.

That is a powerful and awe-inspiring thing. He didn't have to do that. But He took on flesh, allowed himself to be totally dependent on two people who had no clue where life was going to take them. He chose not to be born in an age of convenience and electricity and running water and hotels. But He chose to enter this life in a tough and dangerous time and be born in a stable. There were no hospitals, no doctors or nurses, no epidurals. Nothing. Not even clean cloths to wrap Him in. Why? Why would He do that for someone like me? Someone who tries to live the best she can and tries to please Him, but who fails miserably every day. Someone who is selfish and moody sometimes. Someone who has taken Him for granted.

But He did. He loved me enough that no matter what I do or don't do, He still loves me. He loves me! And He loves you! What a thought!

So that brings me back to those traditions I haven't looked forward to this year. There is a girl, Amanda, who has been fighting cancer. I have been in contact with her through email and read her blog updates. We share a love of the music of Elliott Yamin and Blake Lewis (surprised?). And somehow God has allowed our lives to meet. She wrote a few days ago about how Christmas would be different for her this year, having to spend it in the hospital. But she also commented that Christmas is what you make it and that it is about Jesus. She is wise beyond her years.

So maybe, just maybe, God has allowed me not to be excited about all these "normal" Christmas traditions to bring my focus back to the One important thing. Jesus. We get so wrapped up in parties and gifts and travel and rarely take time to honor the One we should be celebrating. And if that is what He intended - to draw my focus back to where it needs to be - then I am thankful.

Christmas is not about all of these "things." It's about the One who came so we might have life and have it more abundantly! Yes, abundantly! That does not mean sitting around letting life pass you by. It means get out there and live!

So my prayer for you this Christmas is that as you spend time with your family and friends, as you give and receive gifts, as you sing those carols...remember to take some time to honor Jesus. Because without Him there would be no Christmas. There would be no life. There would be no joy.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! And I hope the New Year brings you joy and peace and hope!