Several years ago, I read a book by Vincent J. Miller entitled “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consuming Culture.” The author’s point is our culture doesn’t oppose religion as much as it consumes it. That is, when the church says to our culture, “Christmas is a special day to us” our culture doesn’t say, “You can’t celebrate Christmas” but instead says, “Yes, Christmas is a great time of year. Can we help? Why don’t we have a sale for you as you celebrate Christmas?”
The church, of course, takes the deal. Who wouldn’t want 30% off on Black Friday? Love is expressed by the size of the present or the cost of the gift. According to our world, it’s a great Christmas if everybody buys a bunch of stuff. (Hence the supply chain anxiety in our world of having to face Christmas with empty shelves.) The world starts the Christmas sales earlier and earlier and extends them later and later. Now, stores will stay open until midnight on Christmas Eve and even open on Christmas morning in case you forgot to buy batteries.
And somewhere along the way, Jesus is lost among the boxes and wrapping paper. The angel’s song is muffled behind the recorded Christmas songs about reindeer and snow. (Have you ever noticed how banal Christmas songs are when they try to avoid the Christmas story?) We spend too much. We eat too much. We do everything too much! We crawl out of the Christmas season exhausted, frustrated, broke, and determined that next year will be different.
We won’t travel as much. We won’t spend as much. We won’t eat too much. We are determined to change things and then we remember this is the year that was going to be different last year.
In the south, we have a phrase: “Fixin’ to get ready.” While no one can really explain it, we all know what it means. The phrase means you’re getting ready to do something like, “I’m fixin’ to get ready to go to the store. Want to come?” But when you first hear the phrase, you’re not sure what the person is saying. Are they going to do something? Are they preparing to do something? Are they going to do something once they finish preparing whatever they need to prepare?
Anyway, you get the point. And honestly, we do spend a lot of time “fixin’ to get ready” for Christmas. We plan our vacation around Christmas. We make arrangements with our extended family about who will meet where and where all of the grandkids will sleep. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right gift depending on how close the recipient is to us. You can’t buy a gift that says too much or too little. Family dynamics are balanced so we can all survive the holidays.
We end up stressed and depressed over a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with Christmas. The world will object. “Hey,” they will say, “isn’t Christmas about love and family?”
No, Christmas isn’t about family. It’s great if you can celebrate Christmas with family, but Christmas is about Jesus.
And no, Christmas isn’t about love — at least not about love in the way the world defines it. The world defines love as a giddy emotion, not as a choice to sacrifice everything for the beloved. Christmas love is much deeper and much different from the secular versions.
Christmas is about worship. Christmas is about responding to the one thing we knew we needed but wouldn’t dare ask for. We’re so lost and messed up that we know we won’t make it if God doesn’t come Himself. Who would ask for such a thing? Then, God shows up in Christ and our only response is worship.
Think about it. Everybody in the Christmas story is worshipping.
The shepherds and wise men worship.
Simeon and Anna worship.
The angels worship.
Everyone in the story is singing and praising God.
Us? We’re standing in line for the latest video game.
I think Miller has a point. I think the world has stolen Christmas from us and for one, I want it back. I don’t want the Christmas holidays. I want my holy day back.
I want time to marvel at the miracle of God coming to our world.
I want to ponder the risk He took by coming as a baby.
I want to think about how different the world is now that God has told us His name — Jesus.
I want the joy that comes from seeing the Child.
I want the wonder of being so close to God I can feel His breath on my cheek.
I want the peace of knowing the King is here and soon, His kingdom will be too.
I don’t want to spend any more time “fixin’ to get ready” for all this stuff that has nothing to do with Christmas. I don’t want to travel. I don’t want to shop. I don’t want to eat. I want to worship.
Christ is born. That’s gift enough.
The King has come. Our Savior is here. That’s enough.
I’m exhausted by the holidays.
I want my holy day back.
I want to worship.
There’s nothing the world can sell that will come close to that.