Yesterday I was sitting on the floor in our great room wrapping Christmas presents and listening to the King’s College Choir singing classic Christmas music. I had spent the morning shopping, then rushed home to change clothes and attend our neighborhood’s annual Christmas tea at the clubhouse which had been meticulously decked out in festive trimmings. Beside me, the tiny lights of our apartment-sized Christmas tree glowed, joining forces with multiple twinkling candles on the mantle above. Focused on how much shopping I still had to accomplish, suddenly I was struck with how far our Christmas traditions and celebrations have departed from that first Christmas in Bethlehem.
Not that there’s anything wrong with decorating, gift-giving, or gathering friends and family to enjoy food and fellowship. But when those aspects dominate our holiday celebrations, it’s not really about Christmas, is it?
Now that I’m retired from my demanding job as a church musician, I don’t feel quite as frantic about being ready in time for December twenty-fifth. But there’s still a sense of urgency surrounding the preparations: mail the cards, clean and decorate the house, shop for gifts and wrap them, attend concerts, plan special meals and gatherings, shop for groceries … the list goes on and on until we want to shout “stop, slow down, there’s only so much one person can do!” I would add, “take time to reflect on God’s gift to humanity, Jesus Christ.” God, the Father, is not the one pushing us to rush about, checking things off our to-do lists. Rather, we humans have turned Christmas into a competition to outdo each other. Maybe that’s why we’re called the human race. We even stretch our budgets to the breaking point, making retail merchants happy but causing ourselves more unnecessary stress.
What happened exactly that first Christmas in Bethlehem? “The Word became flesh.” God in the form of a baby, all human, all divine, came and dwelt among us, fulfilling the prophecy foretold hundreds of years before by Isaiah, Micah and others. More than our annual reenactment of Mary and Joseph gazing peacefully into a manger, surrounded by shepherds and animals, it was the greatest gift humanity has ever known. God’s desire to reveal His plan of love and harmony to the universe was so overwhelming that He came and dwelt among us in the form of a humble peasant boy. Knowing His plan would include suffering and humiliating death, God came to offer the ultimate gift of salvation, a gift that is free to all who accept it. Now, that’s a reason to celebrate!
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com