How would you fill in the blank? I’m sure our answers change over the years; perhaps at one time we might say, ”It wouldn’t be Christmas without presents!” Or, “I can’t imagine Christmas without a tree!” For many of us who have grown up in northern climes, it is hard to feel like it’s Christmas without snow. And we all have that wonderful sensation when we hear our favorite Christmas carols, or smell that special scent (freshly baked Christmas cookies anyone?) that we always associate with Christmas. The sights and sounds and smells of this holiday are particularly engaging – especially when they are shared with family and friends. Those long-standing Christmas traditions make this time of year fondly anticipated and remembered.
Regrettably, the reality of living in a fallen world among fellow sinners often dashes warm hopes. And our warm memories are regularly seen through rose-tinted glasses. But that’s okay, it’s not the end of the world, because, as Christians, we know that ultimately we must fill in the blank with Jesus. “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Christ!” We know and proclaim that “Jesus is the reason for the season!” And that is absolutely correct. Which is why it is so helpful to combat the commercialization of Christmas by celebrating Advent – a time of preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a helpful reminder that we need to be intentional about setting time aside for rest and worship. If we’re not careful, all the good things and traditions will consume us – our energy, emotions, etc. Little or nothing will be left for God or others if we’re not careful. So let me encourage you to find an advent calendar to follow, and prioritize worship (private, family, and church) this holiday season as we strive to “Keep Christ Pre-eminent in all Things.”
My prayer is that this Advent’s sermon series will be of assistance in this as well. Scripture focuses us on the coming of Christ; but the glory of the incarnation was mostly hidden at His birth, misunderstood throughout His life, manifest at the cross, and will be made known completely to everyone at His return. We tend to focus exclusively on the nativity, and that’s not wrong as long as we understand very well that the reason we celebrate finds its climax not in the cradle, but at the cross! Jesus’ birth was very necessary, an amazing miracle, and a real joy to celebrate. Praise God for His good gift, the best gift – His Son to be our Savior! But the Good News doesn’t stop with the angels’ song to the shepherds or the gifts of the magi; it goes right to the empty tomb and Jesus’ promise to return one day!
These next five times we gather together to worship we will be (Lord willing) looking at Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection, and return. And so by God’s grace when we say, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Christ,” we will be helped to see Him in all the glory of why He came and what He accomplished. And we will worship wholeheartedly, wondering at God’s grace and praying that we will be ready for Christ’s second coming.
My prayer for us all as we celebrate Christmas in the year of our Lord, 2012, is that we would know God’s grace this season: that God would grant us what we need to take time and make space for rest and worship this month, regardless of how hectic our schedules might be; that the Holy spirit would continue to make us more holy, in spite of (or even in the midst of) the pressures and stresses of the holiday; and that the perfect gift of salvation that is ours through faith in Christ would be shared wisely with those around us. And one quick caution: we all know the emphasis placed on the external by our secular culture, please don’t be trapped by the tinsel – don’t let glitter replace grace this Christmas.
And now, in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone!”