As I write this, Christmas 2018 is hurtling at us at high speed. But aside from all the scheduling conflicts and budgetary juggling, I still anticipate it keenly. The little boy in me still delights in the lights and the presents. The grown-up part of me looks forward to family gathered and young ones all excitedabout the festivities.
Someone wrote an article once in which they stated, “Christmas time is to churches what Black Friday is to retail stores.” Honestly, that is true more often than not. That’s why a few years ago our leadership decided to purposely steer our church away from show business-like extravaganzas and toward simpler, more scaled-back ways of celebrating Christmas. If we have to act in an un-Christ-like manner in order to prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, I’m not sure that really honors Jesus. So we’ve tried in recent years to celebrate Christmas as a church in ways that don’t add more hurry and stress to people’s lives.
But I do love Christmas. And I love Christmas at our church.
I love to see our sanctuary decorated for Christmas. I guess I’m biased, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church building look more beautiful than ours does at Christmas time.
I love Christmas carols. I know we can get tired of them by the time December is over, but Christmas carols have more sound Bible doctrine, line for line, than almost any other type of hymn or worship song. And I love a Christmas Choir, singing about the birth of Jesus to us in wonderful new songs and arrangements. I think it adds so much to our December services.
I love showing the video clip from A Charlie Brown Christmas, where Linus quotes from Luke 2 and then says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” I often still choke up when I watch it. I didn’t show it for a year or two, but people have told me they love it when I include it in the Christmas Sunday service. So I’m going to show it again. I’m glad. I missed it.
I love the Advent Wreath. We never had one of those in the church I grew up in. I think my pastor would have thought it was too “liturgical”. But I love how each of the candles points to a different part of the Christmas Story: the prophets who foretold Jesus’ birth, the little town of Bethlehem where He was born, the shepherds to whom the angels announced Jesus’ birth, and finally the Christ Child Himself!
My favorite part of all my favorite parts is putting on my “St. Nicholas” robe, and telling how originally St. Nicholas was a bishop (or pastor) in Asia Minor in the 4th century. He was a defender of Christianity, and a faithful witness who actually was imprisoned for his faith for a time. He was also known for giving gold coins to poor children. So I like to give all the kids a bag of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. I love the fact that “Santa” was a preacher! (And some of the rowdier members of our church love it when I throw the leftover chocolate coins out into the congregation. Every year my wife tells me I’m going to hurt someone doing that. I suppose if that happens, I’ll have to quit. Until then, duck!)
And I love the giving of presents at Christmas time, too. Can we be materialistic and go overboard with gifts? Well, yeah, we can. So don’t go overboard. But we love to give our children presents because we’re made in the image of God, and He delights to give good things to His children (Matthew 7:11; James 1:16-17).
The truth is, we can’t have anything good in our lives unless God gives it to us. He gives us the very breath in our lungs and the beating of our hearts (Acts 17:28). We can’t live, individually, as families, or as a church unless God blesses us…gives us good things. And the very best gift He has given us is the gift of His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and to rise again, opening the way for us to come to the Father and to become His children by faith (John 3:16; 14:6; 1:11-12).
When God blesses us, all He has to do is say the word (Hebrews 11:3). When we bless someone, it’s actually a prayer for God to do something good for them. I think the blessing of Aaron, which I use to close our morning worship services, takes on special meaning at Christmas time. Let me close by quoting it as a prayer for you and yours, and for our church as well, this Christmas season:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”Numbers 6:24-26
And: Merry Christmas!
Soli Deo Gloria!