I love Christmas. I always have. As a kid Christmas meant decorating sugar cookies, twisting a perfect candy cane cookie, watching White Christmas, trips to my grandparents' farmhouse, for a couple years trips to Toronto to visit my other grandparents, time with family, and presents. As I got older not a lot changed. In my teen years I added gift exchanges with friends, Christmas dances, and plans for New Years gatherings. In college Christmas meant a break from school, a semester completed, and a 600 mile trip (1200 miles round trip) to see my boyfriend and my parents and sisters. In 1999 it meant a flight home from Europe on the eve of Y2K. And two years later it meant a wedding day complete with six inches of lake effect snow. Now it means watching my excited children unwrap the gifts they find under the Christmas tree.
I love Christmas, but as I get older I have to admit it has lost some of its "magic." What happened? I became an adult and suddenly the responsibilities of adulthood made much of the Christmas season feel like a chore. I don't get to go Christmas shopping; I have to finish a list and make sure that no one gets left out. Any decorations that I put up I have to put away. I don't get to just decorate cookies; I have to clean up the kitchen once it is all done. The end of the semester doesn't mean I just get a break; it means that I spend part of my break finishing up the last of grading and prepping for the new semester (and no, dear students past and present, I am not looking for empathy since I fully bring it on myself).
I love Christmas and maybe that is why I need to remind myself that the above isn't important. Christmas isn't about decorating, finding the perfect tree, buying and receiving presents, making cookies, eating a lot of yummy and really unhealthy food, and even time with family. That has become a part of our national Christmas tradition, but far too often we forget the Christ child at the center of Christmas. We forget that Advent isn't a countdown to gift opening but instead a preparation for the celebration of the "Word made Flesh." It is preparation for Christ's return. Christmas is about God's love demonstrated through the birth of His only son, a son who would be his mother's pride and joy, a son who would play with his siblings and eventually scare his earthly parents when he chose to stay behind in Jerusalem to learn in the temple. This son would ultimately suffer, die, and rise from the grave to save a world lost in the dark.
I love Christmas and therefore I am not saying we have to let go of the traditions. We don't need to throw out the tree, we don't need to stop listening to Christmas music, we don't need to stop buying and receiving gifts. But while we are doing all that let us remember that Christmas is not the end of a season but the beginning of a 33-year ministry leading to a crucified and risen Christ. Let your Christmas season be blessed with family and relaxation but don't forget the "Reason for the Season."