I took this picture in early September at a local big box store:
Christmas in September? I was still wearing shorts in New Jersey. The kids were barely back in school. Christmas was hardly on my mind. But there it was before me in all its commercialized grandeur.
In many ways, there are two Christmases. There is the Christmas that is on display in the box store. And there is the Christmas that is found in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem so many years ago.
This series on Giving Up Christmas is all about giving up the Christmas on display in the big box store. It is letting go of the non-essentials so that we might fully experience the presence of Jesus. It is through Jesus we experience joy and hope that the commercialized Christmas promises but fails to deliver.
Take a moment to look at the picture above. What do you see? There is Santa, snowmen, Christmas lights, polar bears, penguins, and more. So much stuff! It made my head to see it all so many months before Christmas. But this is the picture of Christmas for many – overwhelming and expensive!
The joy of the season is replaced with the stress of the holiday. The expectations become demanding. We want to ensure that Christmas is perfect and that we don’t miss out on any experience. So we add more and more and more in search of a more meaningful Christmas. We add more to our calendars. We buy extra stuff. We try a little harder to be generous and perform good deeds. And we wear ourselves out to make it all happen.
But is this what Christmas is about? What if a more meaningful experience was not found in more, but less?
I want to go back to the picture of the big box store. What is missing in the picture? Jesus! Rather than being the main thing, Jesus becomes just another thing to the mix. Oftentimes, he gets pushed out of the picture entirely. My prayer is that as you join me in this Christmas and Advent season, that Jesus would not be just another thing, but would become the main thing.
The greatest present that is given in the presence of Jesus. What are some of the expectations and burdens you might give up this Christmas that would help you more fully experience God’s presence? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the incredible miracle of Christmas. How incredible it is that you would send us Jesus to be present with us. You are a God who knows our struggle, our suffering, and our sorrow. In the whirlwind of life, we often struggle to be present with you. During this Advent and Christmas season, help us to take the time to stop and linger in your presence. Give us wisdom and courage to let go of the non-essentials to more fully experience the joy of your presence. In Jesus’ name. Amen!