I don’t know about you, but I find there’s a lot of hype at Christmas time. We make so many assumptions, that everyone is happy at Christmas—or that we can spend up big on gifts and presents. The reality is quite different for a lot of people. They can’t afford expensive presents. And how many of us value the gifts a few months into the new year? What about giving your time to someone who needs it, rather than spending money? I think too many of us feel under pressure.
Christmas is supposed to be about rejoicing—happy about what? It makes you think. The Christian message is clear. That God sent his only Son Jesus Christ, born in a manger, to grow into manhood, and die a sacrificial death on the cross for our sins. That’s why many say “let’s keep Christ in Christmas”. An important message as far as I am concerned.
But there is still this level of expectation, that everyone will be happy and relaxed and on holidays. But the thought of all that is to happen causes extra stress. Surely it’s about keeping Christmas in perspective.
When we become stressed, we lose our focus on what’s really important. We get caught up in minor details, like “have I got enough food for Christmas day lunch?” Yes, it’s good to be organised, but not to the point of stressing out. Let’s be mindful of keeping everything in its right perspective, and let go of the small, insignificant details. Who will even remember this time next year if the decorations were colour-coordinated?
Sometime the biggest stress comes from people closest to us. The relatives you only see once a year who somehow always upset you. Misunderstandings happen at this holiday time. The holiday season comes and goes, and we find ourselves in a new year. Find ways to include family and time to unwind and recharge.
The significant message is about Jesus Christ. George W. Truett said it well: “Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries”.
During the Great Depression that hit Australia in the 1930s, a family, like many families during this time, was struggling to put food on the table. Certainly luxuries were considered a very distant dream. One day posters were pasted up all over town announcing the arrival of a circus. Admission was advertised at $1—a big sum in the depression years. One of the boys in the family was really keen to go, but his father told him that he would have to earn the money to pay for his ticket.
The young boy had never seen a circus in his lifetime, so he worked feverishly doing all sorts of jobs to get enough funds to purchase his ticket. On the day the circus arrived, he went to see the performers and the animals parade through town. As he watched, a clown came dancing over to him, and the boy put his ticket in the clown’s hand. Then he stood on the curb and cheered as the rest of the parade moved by.
The youngster rushed home to tell his parents what he had seen and how exciting the circus was. His father listened, then took his son in his arms and said, “Son, you didn‘t see the circus. All you saw was the parade”.
This story is very much a picture of what happens at Christmas. The commercial hype has so clouded the reason for the season, that one could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity, rather than seeing Christmas as the momentous fact of history that it is.
But because of the emphasis on the commercial aspect of Christmas many people miss the main event. Put simply the reason for the season is Jesus. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating the birthday of the most important person in human history and in human existence.
Who is this Jesus—really? A man who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born has some answers. In Isaiah 9:6-7, the prophet looked into the future and prophesied about something—Someone—he had never seen, something—Someone—we look back to. Even Jesus Christ, Wonderful Counsellor:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.