There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years among Christians who are concerned that Christ is being “left out” of Christmas. These well-meaning individuals bemoan the commercialization of the holiday and cite the nearly-universal use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as evidence that the focus of Christmas has shifted away from the birth of Savior and onto. . . well, everything else. I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve generally been in agreement with this crowd. I always respond to a store clerk’s cheery “Happy Holidays!” with an equally enthusiastic “Merry Christmas!” and I’ve mourned the exclusion of religious Christmas songs on the radio. Like other Christians, I’ve longed for the “good old days” when Christ and Christmas were inseparable. But lately, I’ve been viewing things a little differently.
Recently, I’ve come to recognize that the real problem isn’t that Jesus is being left out of Christmas—it’s that He’s being excluded from the other eleven moths of the year! I’ll be the first to admit that I believe Jesus should be first and foremost on our minds and hearts during the Advent season. But isn’t that where He is supposed to be all year long? We spend January through November placing our faith on the back burner, and when December rolls around we become obsessed with the notion that every phrase, activity, decoration, and song somehow incorporate Christ. We hustle to attend all of the church services, accomplish every possible act of kindness, fill our homes with nativity scenes, and dutifully participate in daily Advent activities. Though well-intended, our actions begin to feel unnatural and forced, done out of a sense of obligation and guilt rather than in a spirit of worship. When we are knee-deep in the busiest and most chaotic season of the year, making Jesus our primary focus can feel like a losing battle.
A healthier and more realistic alternative (one that is God’s intention for us) is to involve Christ in every thought, word, and action through every season of the year; then, when Christmas rolls around, He will naturally fall into place as the centerpiece of the Holiday. Jesus need not explicitly be the focus of our entire Christmas for the spirit of Christ to effortlessly infuse itself into our Christmas season. And if a few Santa Claus movies and gift exchanges find their way into the holiday (<— a word, by the way, that comes from the Old English word for “holy day”), it won’t be the end of the world. . . or of our faith.
As Christians, we need to expend less time and energy worrying about how others are excluding Jesus from their Christmas celebrations. God is so much bigger than us, and He doesn’t need our permission to show up at Christmas time. I love the way blogger Rachel Held Evans put it in her post Are You Being Persecuted?: “The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up—not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble.” Jesus will be there at Christmas time, whether we invite Him in or not!
I realize that my views on this topic might not be popular. I’d love to hear your opinions, especially if they differ from mine. Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts! Or, let me know how you incorporate Jesus in the Christmas season, and all year long.