Christmas is swiftly approaching and it is the time when our minds are either more quickly gravitating away from Jesus or are casually gravitating toward him in order to give him a mere passing glance next week. We tend to either culturally patronize Jesus as we set out or nativity scenes and watch our church Christmas programs or totally ignore him as we are bogged down with Christmas presents, meals, and family gatherings. In the time of year when Christians should be rejoicing with exceedingly great joy (Matt. 2:10), we are guilty of stressing out to no end. Stress and ultimate dissatisfaction despite the best gifts or gatherings possible reign over us because we are treasuring things that will ultimately fail us. Frankly, our Christmas treasures are not enough for our satisfaction-seeking and joy-driven souls.
The Bible is clear that where your treasure is, your heart will be (Matt. 6:21); and from your heart flows..well…everything, including what comes from your mouth (Matt. 15:18-19). The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is almost demanded by our consumer-driven culture. And our hearts, minds, and, as we will see, mouths fall prey to the blizzard of distractions the holiday season brings. If we lose anything along the way, it is sight of the one for whom our celebration should center around.
But what is it that we truly celebrate at Christmas? What do we glorify mostly in the month of December? I contend that we celebrate or worship what we treasure. There are a few questions that we can ask ourselves in order to expose what our treasure is this Christmas. Today I will begin with one of these questions and in the subsequent days move to the other questions. Hopefully we will see some pitfalls of Christmas in America and redirect our eyes to gaze upon the center of Christmas, the Christ who came.
1. What do you talk about with your friends and family most relating to Christmas?
This question is directed at our minds. What do we think about and subsequently talk about when Christmas is brought up? I find myself too often talking about what gifts I have bought for who; when my wife and I are going to eat with family and where; how thin we have stretched our bank account; what our favorite Christmas songs and movies are; etc. In churches while the default focus of our conversations is baby Jesus, the glory of his coming is casually talked about or simply assumed general knowledge and left alone as a dead horse that no longer needs beaten.
What you treasure will more so than not be what you talk about on a regular basis. If you treasure your children, you will talk about them. If you treasure your fortune or prosperity, it will come out in your conversations. Talking about having the best tree, and the best wreath, and the best decorations, and the best meal is an accurate picture of your Christmas treasure. We itch to talk about these things, because they rule our Christmas conversations. We are not content without talking about our gifts, decor, gatherings, or Christmas creations.
However, the dangerous reality for many Christians is that we are content with leaving Jesus out of our conversations this Christmas. And I do not mean here that you are sinning if every discussion about Christmas does not include the name of Jesus. That is silly and far from the point. The issue is in the priorities of your conversations; and in the enjoyment of your discussions.
Praise God that Christ was born and ultimately died to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)–including your indifference toward him this Christmas season. He also died to shape and mold our conversations this Christmas. Examine yourself and evaluate your own spiritual maturity this Christmas. In the midst of tremendous distraction, is your focus and the focus of your family on the Christ-child, the glory and implications of his coming? Or is your focus primarily on consumeristic Christmas matters? What do you most enjoy talking about this time of year?
The reason for this self-examination is that Christians can be guilty of unknowingly or maybe even in one sense unconsciously ignoring Jesus this Christmas. And by the way, the “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “I say Merry CHRISTmas, not Happy Holidays” Facebook statuses do not count as treasuring Jesus. Nearly all Christians take part in or watch church Christmas programs or plays that celebrate the birth of Jesus in one way or another.
But these things have come to serve as mere low-level chatter in the hectic realm of Christmas consumerism and traditionalism among evangelicals. We have become numb to Jesus this time of the year. I believe this is because we unknowingly and unwillingly place him on equal footing with the other Christmas elements like Santa, decorations, presents, and other traditions. He is just another figurine to find a place on our mantle beside the snowmen, Santa, and Christmas trees. Jesus is just another “good thing” that makes up our Christmas.
But is this really who Jesus is? Our conversations will not be Jesus-centered, and therefore gospel-centered, until we realize, submit, and rejoice in the true identity of Jesus. He is the King who humbled himself to a crib. He is the Lord who suffered as our sacrificial Lamb. And he is the resurrected Immanuel, God with us…forever. Until we get the biblical picture of Jesus ever before us and infused into our minds and written onto our hearts, he will continue to take a back seat to Santa and trees and gifts and families and meals and wreaths and…you get it.
What you talk most about is what you treasure. May your conversations this Christmas be filled with the Christ who came. May your thoughts and words be about Jesus or point to Jesus and the incomparable joy that is found in him. And may your celebrations center on Jesus; who he is and what he came to do. Let the attitude of John Piper guide you as Christmas approaches:
Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus. If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.