Why do Christians often feel so desperate during the holidays to invent creative ways of feeling closer to Christ? It's almost as if the sudden appearance of twinkling evergreen boughs, brightly wrapped packages and a jolly, present-wielding elf suddenly clutters the mind, veiling from our hearts the reason for the season.
As a Christian, I believe that having faith in Christ will free me from the worries of this earthly existence. Through him I find peace. So during the season when we celebrate his birth, why do we feel the most exhausted, and find ourselves searching aimlessly for the one eternal being we wish to celebrate?
Of course, the first consensus is always to stop shopping and buying so much. The only problem with this strategy is that we rely on an economy that is driven by our insatiable appetite to consume. In America, shopping less, while prudent, would only wreak a greater havoc on our already struggling economy.
Other suggestions I've heard include limiting the number of gifts for kids to three: one being an item the child wants, another something he or she needs, and third, a gift of one-on-one time with a parent. In addition, there are always the usual suggestions of performing service in the place of gifts, or having a child sacrifice one of his or her gifts for a needy child, and so on.
Now it's been a while since I was a kid, but I'm fairly certain that if my folks had announced they were withholding gifts in order to bring me closer to Christ - call me selfish - but I would have felt anything but closer to my Savior.
And then there's always the counsel to simplify our holiday preparations. But then, what's Christmas without all the baking, the wrapping, the cards, the shopping, and the parties?
In order to solve these dilemmas, Christians need only look beyond the chaos to the symbols of the season:
The red ribbons and ornaments: both reminders of Christ's sacrifice for us all if only we will seek him, know him, become like him.
The presents: symbols of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus, neatly arranged under an evergreen tree - eternal life.
And finally, the lights: a symbol of Christ's spirit that burns inside us all.
When all that is associated with Christmas speaks of Christ, it appears these seasonal feelings of ambiguity are less of a commercial issue and more of a spiritual matter, amplified by a holiday that calls attention to our pious inadequacies. What if instead of working earnestly to find Christ once a year, we focused daily on becoming more like him? In other words, less concerned with what we need to do and more concerned with who we needed to be?
The Beatitudes as 10 steps
When considering what it means to be like Christ, all roads lead back to the Beatitudes: those lessons taught by Jesus Christ in one of the most famous sermons in the Bible. The Beatitudes could be summarized as the following steps toward becoming more like Christ.
Be Thirsty for Righteousness.
Be a Peacemaker.
Be Pure in Heart
And I would add:
10. Teach our children each day through our actions, and with patience, to celebrate Christ's birth, one beautiful attitude at a time.
The secret to putting Christ back into Christmas lies not in rejecting all that the season has become, but in making an effort throughout the year to be more tolerant and charitable, less judgmental and self-absorbed.
If we who are Christian teach our kids to be like Christ throughout the year, then we won't have to worry ourselves at Christmas with finding creative ways of helping them understand the true meaning behind the season. He will be with us - in our hearts and in our actions - on December 25th just as he had been every other day of the year.
If we consciously take these steps this holiday season, hopefully we will feel less of a need to begrudge ourselves, and our children, of the fanfare that comes but once a year. For imbedded in the lights, the decorated trees and the jolly man who brings brightly wrapped packages to all who believe, we will see the peace and the hope, the light that shines from within us as a testament of all we wish to become.