A few days ago we were driving to a Christmas party through the farms and woods surrounding our home. I looked at my window as the darkness of night took over the dim light of evening. It was the time of night when Christmas lights begin to pop up all over the countryside, dotting the fields with festive colors.
We drove by one house whose front porch and windows were covered in green, red, and white lights and whose yard was filled with blow-up Santa Claus's and inflatable snowmen. And as we drove by, I noticed one more thing. In the fading light, I could just make out the silhouette of a stable behind the house. Not a nativity scene or a lit up Christmas decoration, but simply a real, animal filled barn - just like the place this entire holiday began.
I think this image really captures much of what has happened to our celebration of Christmas in America. Even in most Christian families, the most exciting and looked-forward-to part of Christmas is Santa, gift-giving, and food. None of these things on their own are bad, and they have all been used for good purposes. But when most of our time is spent focusing on the icons associated with Christmas instead of the purpose of Christmas, there is a problem.
We see signs in various lawns around Canby that read "Jesus is the reason for the season," and we tell ourselves that we know this is true. But do we really live like that? It seems to me that were someone who knew nothing about Christmas to be suddenly plopped into the American Christmas culture, their conclusion would be that Christmas is a holiday meant to celebrate family, friends, food, and fun. They probably wouldn't even be able to tell if the origin of Christmas was Jesus or Santa.
My purpose in writing is this: to encourage you to remember not to push Jesus into the background. Don't let your Christmas lights blind you to the beauty of Christ's birth. Don't let your annual nativity scene numb you to the truth it holds. Don't let the frenzy of shopping take your focus off of the reason you are doing the shopping. Don't let the songs on every street corner drown out the one true story.
Who knows? Maybe we need to give up the lights or the shopping or the stockings or the turkey in order to spend this Christmas truly remembering what happened on that midnight clear. Maybe we need to stop jingling our bells to hear the angels sing. Maybe we need to stop roasting chestnuts on the fire so we can see the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. Maybe we need to stop singing about the Christmas tree in order to remember the One who truly is unchanging. Maybe we need to stop calling for Santa Claus to come to town and instead call for the coming of Emmanuel.
Is it possible that the star on our tree has turned us away from the star in the sky?
Is it possible that putting the lights on our homes has distracted us from the coming of the Light of the world?