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It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” sang Andy Williams. I completely agree, but I’m not sure we all agree with what makes it wonderful. I actually think many Christians have missed the mark when it comes to Christmas. It may even be possible that we have merged the good parts of secular Christmas with the mission of Christmas. The only problem – we may have derailed the mission altogether.
When I think of Christmas, I think of three possible mindsets: Christmas Chaos, Family Christmas, or Christmas Mission.
1. Christmas Chaos
Everything is busier during Christmas! Calendars are full of concerts, shopping, recitals, shopping, dinners, and… did I mention shopping? If you’re not buying a gift, you’re in anticipation of opening a gift. Every day is faster than the next and the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses” grows continually.
2. Family Christmas
Christmas becomes warm and sweet. It’s when Christmas is about gathering together as a family, experiencing tradition from one year to the next, and celebrating the holidays with “good cheer.” It’s not about the gifts, but the people you care about.
3. Christmas Mission
This is when we focus on God’s ultimate gift to us – Jesus. We remember God’s mission (gifting us with Jesus) and act in our mission (sharing that gift with others). Just as God selflessly gave his Son to us to provide hope and peace, we act selflessly love others to share in that gift.
Is it possible to experience all three of these Christmas mindsets during the season? Absolutely! Can you focus on all three? Impossible!
Most would agree Christmas Chaos, and the commercialism that surrounds that, is completely missing the mark of Christmas. But where do we go from there?
I think we may have fallen into the trap of believing that Family Christmas is the actual meaning of Christmas. We may have actually derailed the beautiful hope that Christmas brings. Yes, we may believe in the Christmas Mission, but do we actually value it over Family Christmas?
We know Family Christmas can’t be the center of Christmas, because not all of us have family. If family doesn’t exist, does that mean that Christmas doesn’t exist? No, of course not! It’s a good thing that the Christmas Mission includes everyone!
Does that mean that Family Christmas isn’t important? Absolutely not! Family remains an important part of our lives. It just means that Christmas doesn’t surround the family. Instead, Christmas is about how family and friends experience the Christmas Mission.
Here are some ways we can refocus our thinking:
Nothing refocuses us towards the Christmas mission like selflessly giving. It’s counter-intuitive for our culture to focus on giving, let alone giving selflessly. What would Christmas look like if we, as family and friends, gave up something to help someone else? We’re too quick to say we can’t afford to give, and yet focusing on mission means focusing on giving, not receiving.
- Protect and embrace the birth of Jesus.
It’s one thing to read the Christmas story before we open our presents on Christmas morning, it’s another thing to allow the Christmas story to impact everything we do. I think we all too often get the “religious” thing over with so we can have fun. We probably forget that, without Christ, the hope of tomorrow is gone. Christmas time should be sacred. That doesn’t mean Christmas is always serious, but our activities should bring us closer to Jesus, not further away.
You may worship in a denomination where the advent liturgy is practiced, or you may now. Unfortunately, I come from a denomination that has not traditionally practiced advent. However, I grew up in a local assembly that did. At Bethel, where I lead, we work through it every year. It helps build anticipation of the arrival of Christ.
Spread love, joy and peace to those around us. Live out the Christmas mission. Show those around us that knowing the Saviour is life-changing and life-giving. That might mean giving of our resources, or it might mean extending moments of love, joy and peace during moments of chaos. It could drastically impact how you react in a busy mall parking lot.
Family is always a vital part of the Christmas Mission, but the focus can’t be on family. If we do it right, our families should experience the Christmas Mission together.
What is the focus of Christmas? What makes Christmas “wonderful”?
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