The Real Meaning of Christmas
Until my first-born son was old enough to enjoy opening gifts, I was a total scrooge when it came to Christmas. I hated the music, the hustle bustle, the celebrations, and the decorations. That’s a pretty vulnerable confession for a pastor to make.
I am not sure what got me to that point. Maybe it was working at Old Navy when I was in college and hearing the 12-song Christmas CD play on a loop from November 1st through January 1st. It could have been seeing people literally with tears in their eyes as they slapped down a credit card at my register to pay a bill they knew, and I knew, they couldn’t afford. You could just see it all over their faces.
Serving as a music minister in a traditional church may have also played a part as we, because of tradition, sang the same songs week after week and nobody even really stopped to think about the words we were singing. Then, at twenty-one years old, I was placed in charge of the church’s 100-year-old tradition of the Hanging of the Greens. I had no idea what that even meant. When it was done, and I didn’t do it like it had always been done, there were a couple of ladies who let me know that they “didn’t know what that was, but that was NOT the Hanging of the Greens.”
I am sure another experience contributed to my bah humbug feelings toward the Christmas season. I was in the seventh grade, fourteen years old. That year there were a particularly larger amount of Christmas gifts under the tree than usual for our family. I really don’t know why, but I remember a few years earlier, my mother had started a tradition of letting my sister and me open one present early, the week before Christmas. So, the day had come for that to happen, and I was excited about it. My sister and I looked around the boxes with our names on them. My sister picked hers. I found the heaviest box with my name on it because that must be the best present. I opened it. It was the worst Christmas gift I had ever received. I was a fourteen year old stud-muffin, alpha male, chick-magnet, seventh grade jock, and my mom had gotten me a porcelain doll dressed up in a baseball uniform. I was soooo mad! She collected dolls, and I guess she wanted to add this one to her collection or something. So, she bought it for me for Christmas. She said she thought I would like it. She was wrong. I am still scarred!
I am sure there are other experiences that played into me being so un-jolly around the holidays for many years, but thankfully when my wife and I had children, we established some good, healthy holiday traditions that have helped bring me back to the real meaning of Christmas and have changed me deeply.
The reality of God coming down to earth, putting skin on, and walking side by side with man has become overwhelming to me. The story of Jesus and His birth, life, death, and resurrection is so far, the greatest story ever told. I say “so far” because the story is not yet complete. There is a promise found in the story of Jesus that He will come again for those who are found in Him. The anticipation of Christmas Day and our Christmas celebrations should remind us and draw us into that truth. Jesus truly is the only gift that keeps on giving without end.
This Christmas season, whether you love all things Christmas or you would rather just cancel it and move on, take time to reflect on what this time is really about. Read the Christmas story from Luke chapters 1 and 2 in the Bible with your family. If you’re really wanting to dig deep, also read the book of John. You will find truth that will set you free to experience the Christ of Christmas like never before.
– Rusty Gunn, Lead Pastor at Chruch that Matters
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