December 1, 2011

Foreigners in the Land

Many stores have been decked out in Christmas regalia since November 1. Christmas-themed commercials have been running almost as long. But, as you read this several days after Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is now finally “officially” upon us.

And, for many, that means the advent of extra busyness and stress. After all, we have:
  • Bubbly annual letters to draft and Christmas cards to address and send;
  • Gifts to shop for and wrap “just so” – not only for spouses and children but also for extended family, friends, co-workers, and teachers;
  • Trees to buy and bedeck;
  • Houses to decorate, inside and out, according to the standards set by Real Simple magazine;
  • Productions of The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, and Handel’s Messiah to attend;
  • Visits to Santa;
  • Christmas choir music to practice and pageant costumes to sew for the kids;
  • Hundreds of cookies of a half dozen varieties to bake and glaze and sprinkle – and then the cookie exchange to attend (where we secretly hope many will marvel at our macaroons);
  • Deep cleaning to accomplish in order to host “perfect” parties;
  • Menus to plan and food straight out of Martha Stewart Living to prepare;
  • Volunteering opportunities to schedule – the ringing of bells and serving at the local food pantry or shelter…

To name just a few.

Is it any wonder that so many relate to and even imitate Ebenezer Scrooge?

It’s not that these traditions and others are necessarily inappropriate. But we need to guard against getting so caught up in activities that we forget the reason behind them.

Which is – simply put – Jesus. Yes, many choose to celebrate a secular Christmas despite the fact that the holiday as we know it really did originate as a means of remembering the Incarnation. But, for Christ-followers, Jesus needs to come first, regardless of what those in the world around us do.

So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to stop and think before launching into seasonal autopilot mode. Do your planned activities turn your heart toward Jesus? Do they reflect His priorities? If not, can you make alterations so they do? And what should you take off your plate entirely?

It can be difficult to live as “foreigners in the land” (1 Peter 1.17, NLT) by choosing to excuse ourselves from the seasonal rat race and, instead, celebrate Christmas differently. But we won’t regret it in the end, when – instead of marking December 25 with exhaustion and regret – we greet the day with the peace and contentment that will come from having prioritized Jesus in a special way throughout the Advent season.

Photo Credit: Zime Illustrations


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