Due to a plethora of crazy schedules and siblings living across country from one another, my family decided to celebrate Christmas early this year. Two weeks I ago I flew to Texas and the whole gang was there. We did everything like we have always done-family get-togethers, amazing food, gift exchanges, family drama, and everything else you could imagine. It felt nice. It was Christmas. Not long after all the gifts were opened and everything was cleaned up I realized that although the family gatherings were over, the presents had all been given, and it had even felt like Christmas, Christmas had not yet happened. This was a big moment for me. In fact, it kept me quiet for a few days. Realizing that Christmas day was not over and we still had time to celebrate and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas made me VERY excited! It hit me in a way that I am not sure has ever happened to me. Maybe that is a bad thing? I took it as great! I was beginning to realize that I could say that Christmas is not about the presents or the traditions, but reality is Christmas has become something to me that includes both.
I came back to Nashville and began to reflect on the time I had just spent with my family. I began to think about the Christmas story. I could really sit down with my Bible and think through these accounts now that I have a little extra time. It's really amazing what you can do when you are no longer facing the pressures of the perfect gift and baking the perfect dish for the party! Anyway, I became very reflective. I thought about how all throughout Scripture there have been people who were waiting in great expectation for the coming of the Messiah. I also thought about how all throughout history and even today how few people have actually realized he has already come as a child in a manger and died on the cross for our sins. I thought about how easy it is to greatly expect something and still miss it.
The birth of Christ is not just exciting. It changes everything!
Doing Christmas differently this year has been huge for me. I am not saying that this is the only way to fully experience Christmas. In fact, I am sure others do it well all the time. However, for me, I feel like it has saved me from missing an opportunity to truly reflect and to experience Christmas in a significant way. It has given me the opportunity to step away from the traditions and the gifts and choose my response to Christ and His coming. You see I believe that when we look back on our lives one of our biggest regrets will be when we do not choose to love people well. I think it will have little to do with the gifts we bought (or did not). We will be most satisfied by the moments when we chose to love the way the Lord has loved us. That love is complex and simple. It most definitely includes grace and it requires patience. This love makes a choice to be consistent and unconditional. It does not often look all nice and pretty. It is a love that we cannot come up with on our own. That is what makes it so incredible! Christmas itself is a huge example of the love that God has for us! It is also an unbelievable opportunity for us to show that love to others!
My challenge to myself (and to you) is that you not miss Christmas! Give the gifts and spend time with friends and family, but do not miss the opportunity you have to understand better the love you have been given through Christ and, as a result, love people well!