Monday, December 13, 2010

Celebrate Jesus

As a Christian Christmas is both a wonderful and dreadful experience. It is wonderful because of the reality behind the celebration. It is dreadful because of the pressure to buy gifts, not because we want to, but because it is expected. Too often, as it has been said time and time again, the wonderful part of Christmas is overlooked and consumed by the dreadful part of Christmas.

The question I often ask myself is: Is it worth it?  Is it worth dealing with the long lines at the mall?  Is it worth worrying about the perfect present?  Is it worth it wondering if you should buy a gift for this person or that one?  Is it worth going to party after party?

Lets face it the things of Christmas often become the focus of Christmas, and when this happens I have admit that it isn’t worth it.  Going into debt to buy presents isn’t worth it.  Running ourselves to the point of exhaustion isn’t worth it.  Standing in line after line isn’t worth.  When we make the things of Christmas the point of Christmas, this holiday just is not worth celebrating.  When Christmas becomes about decorations and gifts then the point of celebration is gone and we might as well forget about this wonderful holiday.

A part of me wouldn’t mind forgetting Christmas altogether.  Jesus didn’t tell us to remember Him by celebrating His birth.  Part of what Christmas is is an example of Christians redeeming a pagan holiday to worship Jesus. 

Since there isn’t a Biblical mandate to celebrate the birth of Jesus means we don’t have to celebrate Christmas.  So I want to give you permission not to feel guilty about not living up to expectations of the holiday.  We don’t have to celebrate Christmas and we can be good Christian people even if we decided not to celebrate the holiday.

With that being said I do think Christmas is an important holiday to celebrate. One of the reasons I feel this way is because of the fuss that was made over Jesus when He was born.  Let me give you three examples of what I am talking about.

The first example is found in Luke 2:8-20.  There were some shepherds out in the fields watching the sheep, and then an angel shows up and tells them about the birth of a special baby in Bethlehem.  Then, and here is when it gets interesting, the armies of heaven show up, praising God.  This really is significant when we connect this to Revelation 12 where John tells us about a woman giving birth and the dragon who tired to destroy her son as she gave birth, and that there was a war in heaven and Michael and his angels defeated Satan and his demons.  A great spiritual war surrounded the birth of Jesus.

The shepherds, only aware of what the angel said, found the baby boy just as they were told. They worshipped Him and then told everyone they met what had happened.  Though because they were shepherds they weren’t trusted (shepherds were considered to be untrustworthy).  A fuss was made over Jesus when He was born.

The second example is found in the rest of chapter 2 of Luke.  According to Jewish custom the baby Jesus needed to be presented at the Temple and be dedicated to the Lord.  Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple and they encountered an old man.  This old man was named Simeon and was a very righteous man.  God had revealed to him that he would not die until he was able to see the Messiah.  When he saw baby Jesus he took Jesus from the arms of His parents and praised God, saying:
29 “Master, now you are allowing your servant to leave in peace
according to your word.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you prepared for all people to see—
32 a light that will reveal salvation to the Gentiles
and bring glory to your people Israel.”
Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was being said about their child, but if that wasn’t enough there was also an old lady named Anna.  This lady was a prophet and basically lived at the Temple.  And while Simeon was praising God for Jesus Anna began telling people about Jesus and how He was the Messiah, the long awaited king of Israel.  A fuss was made over Jesus at the Temple.

The last example is found in Matthew 2:1-18.  Some wise men from the east saw a star.  Because they had study some Jewish teaching they connected this star with the birth of the Messiah.  They began to travel west in search of the promised King.  They could have been traveling up to two years in search of this special child.  When they finally found this small family in Bethlehem they presented the tiny King of Kings with special gifts.

Angels, shepherds, special prophecies, a long journey by gentile scholars, and expensive gifts are but the tip of the iceberg of the fuss that have been made about Jesus.  From the Biblical text it is apparent that a fuss was made about Jesus at His birth because people believed He was special.  I believe that the same is true today.  The only way we will cut through all the distractions of Christmas and focus on Jesus is if we believe He is worth the effort.  If not we will continue on with the traditional Christmas rush and wonder why we even bother.

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