What Is Christmas All About?
Like most everyone, you’ve got a full calendar for December … shopping, presents, parties, plans, preparations, cooking, cleaning, hosting, visiting. But stop for a minute and reflect: Why am I doing all this? Who am I trying to please? Or just impress?
This holiday is meant to be a celebration of the purest, simplest, and most complete love ever known—the love of a heavenly Father who sent His Son to live among us, to teach us how to love, to make our lives better and happier. He eliminated the need for complex rules and rituals, and taught us that we didn’t have to be perfect, get everything right, and live up to unrealistic high expectations. All we had to do was love Him and love our neighbor, and with that, we’d please Him and find happiness.
Why not try something different this year and strive for simplicity in your Yuletide celebrations? Clear out some of the unnecessary clutter of events and expenses. Leave yourself time to concentrate on the things that will have lasting meaning for you and others: spend time with the people you care about; give gifts that will show not merely your good taste, but your care and concern; find someone with fewer blessings than you, and reach out to fulfill some need he or she has.
Finding the purpose of Christmas…
Why is it that the occasion that celebrates God’s great love is for many one of loneliness and sadness? Is it because we forget the true meaning of Christmas? Sometimes we lose it in the baubles and lights, the presents and the festivities. When we forget the real purpose of Christmas we lose the happiness that comes with it. Preparations crowd out the purpose of Christmas—showing thankfulness and appreciation for what God gave mankind on this night.
Christmas is ultimately a celebration of love—God’s love for each of us. The best way we can celebrate Christmas is by giving our gifts to Jesus, gifts of love and thankfulness. It is a time when we can stop and remember those who are often forgotten. We can reach out to help those in need. We can show our thankfulness by reaching out to those whose need is greater than ours.
These are the things that not only make God happy, but help us find deep satisfaction. Christmas is not made special only by presents, decorations, and parties, but especially by what we give to Jesus and others from our hearts. Giving from our hearts and reaching out to those in need, both in our actions and our prayers, demonstrates true gratitude and appreciation for what God has given to us during this Christmas season.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
—James 1:27 NIV
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
—Hebrews 13:3 NIV
The heart of Christmas
When I was growing up, Christmas was always a magical time. Every activity was held in joyous anticipation. Decorating a delicately scented pine tree with lights and trinkets. Baking delicious Christmas cookies and enjoying the scents that wafted through the air.
Filling the air with those songs that we reserve for this special time of year, songs that hold our hearts and stir our souls with the essence of the season. Reaching out to others with the unique message that Christmas brings, through songs and plays, letters and cards, love and gifts from the heart. The very air, crisp and cold, crackling with a sense of expectancy throughout the entire season.
That was until I was 17. Then everything changed. I had moved to India nine months before Christmas, so the culture shock had long since worn off. But trying to get into the “Christmas spirit” in a new country was an unusual challenge that I hadn’t expected.
Rather than the crisp, cold air I was accustomed to, the Eastern sun shone hot and bright as it baked the ground. It seemed impossible to even dream of a white Christmas in weather I always associated with mid-summer. Our “Christmas tree” was a fernlike plant that we placed on a small table and decorated with homemade baubles. It drooped beneath the load.—A true “Charlie Brown” tree. …
I had moved to India to serve the Lord by serving others, yet right now I just felt so alone. So far away from home.
And in that moment, an unexpected recognition grew—the sense that my feeling of loneliness and homesickness mirrored another experience from thousands of years ago. Of someone who left His home—a place of light and life and rapturous beauty—to bring an eternal message of love and hope to those who dwelt in darkness. If anyone had the right to be homesick, it was Jesus.
If anyone had a reason to pine for the comforts of home, it would be the Son of God, who had ordered the stars and planets in their celestial dance, and then came to a place where He was unrecognized and had nowhere to lay His head.
Words began to form in my mind, and I wrote them as they came.
When You saw the crib from on high,
Did You see your death and sigh?
Or did You see the lifeless tomb?
Our Savior, from a humble womb.
When You lay in the manger, damp and cold,
Did You long for an angel’s wings to enfold?
Or realize that we too would long for these things,
And so You chose to walk, not soar on wings.
When You tasted this world’s humble fare,
Did You long for heaven’s sumptuous care?
Or knew the taste would be richer with us at Your side,
And gave us truth while with man You’d abide.
When You felt weak, and weary and worn,
Did You long to leave this world, so forlorn?
Or did You know we needed to be shown the way?
Our light, and for our sake You stayed.
When You did see and touch and feel,
This homesick world from one so real,
Did it pain You to stay a while?
But Lord, I think I saw You smile.
Because You knew that heaven’s touch,
On our poor world would mean so much;
So You died and then rose to glory,
To fulfill man’s deepest, true love story.
As I finished the poem, I didn’t feel so alone. Instead, a new sensation arose—something between a privilege and a kinship. Perhaps a knowledge that I wasn’t alone and never would be, no matter how I felt.
Jesus left the warm embrace of heaven to walk the lonely roads of this life. So He knows what it’s like; He knows how it feels. And one day, He’ll greet us as we enter His Father’s house—a place where we will finally be home again. No homesickness. No tears. Only love and joy forevermore.
He is never far, and because of that, we are never far from home. Home is in the heart, especially at Christmas.
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