It’s that time of the year again. People all over the world will begin to prepare to celebrate Christmas with their family and friends. I believe we have many expectations of what is to come leading up to December 25th.
Christmas is loaded with expectations, isn’t it? Christmas shopping, decorating and entertaining. Typically we knock ourselves out trying to make it the “perfect” Christmas. However, many times we end up with an empty feeling, like Christmas wasn’t as personally fulfilling as we’d hoped.
Why is that? Picture yourself seated at a beautifully decorated Christmas dining table. Cheerful Christmas music plays softly and a twinkling Christmas tree stands in the background. This is the time of peace on earth, good will toward others. Now picture your family and relatives all sitting together around the table.
Do you picture them…arguing? Sometimes, in spite of our efforts, people knock heads, even at Christmas. Perhaps you’re hoping that this year your children will be cheerful, patient and thoughtful of others. Well, if that’s how they are from January to November, you might have a shot at it in December. Or you might find them pulling ornaments off the Christmas tree and opening presents saying, “I already have this.”
Sometimes we think the perfect Christmas is happening in someone else’s house, not our own. Christmas is packed with expectations. However, I believe there’s a way to find Christmas much more personally satisfying.
I believe we first must ask the question “why do we have Christmas? Christmas is celebrated because of the birth of Jesus. Now the whole world doesn’t celebrate my birthday. So why is he so special? I believe one reason is that Jesus said he was God. If you look at Buddha or Confucius or other religious leaders, often it was their followers who declared them “God” long after they were dead. In contrast, Jesus clearly and repetitively told people he was God. Jesus said he could give people eternal life and forgiveness for their sins…credentials which clearly belong only to God.
His communication was also unique. Jesus didn’t teach people ten steps to achieve holiness, or personal disciplines to reach God. If you want to know God, Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
To give validity to his claims, Jesus performed blatant, irrefutable miracles. People born blind could see. The lame that were stuck begging were now walking. The mentally ill could think soundly. We’re told, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages…healing every disease.” His miracles were known by all. Also, Jesus did more than heal people. Five thousand people were given dinner with food that Jesus instantly “produced” for them.
Another time Jesus made a violent storm on the sea cease immediately. The people in the boat “were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” The key to enjoying the celebration of Christmas is to understand who was truly born that day. Once this happens all the Christmas carols take on more life…” Joy to the Word, the Lord has come!”
So why did Jesus come to earth? You know how life at times can seem trivial, pointless, or without real meaning? Even at Christmas we can go through all the motions, but life can still lack meaning and depth. Jesus wants to give us a more meaningful, abundant life. He came to offer us a genuine relationship with himself. Scripture says “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”
Whatever is going on in your world this Christmas, there is no greater gift you could give yourself than to receive the One who came to earth for us. He offers you complete forgiveness, a relationship with Him, a more abundant life and eternal life. As long as we trust in ourselves, our own good life, God will remain distant, and we remain separated from him by our sin. He asks us to empty our hands of our efforts and receive him and his gift.
There is no greater joy at Christmas than coming into a relationship with Jesus. Too many times we have worn ourselves out, driven by our expectations to have the “perfect” Christmas. All of the shopping, decorating, entertaining never fully meets our deepest longings. For Christmas to be special, we simply need to receive Jesus’ gift to us…a relationship with him. Knowing him brings great meaning and enjoyment at Christmas, no matter who knocks over the Christmas tree.
Barry Pettit is lead minister at South Side Church of Christ in Washington Court House.