(This article was originally written prior to the current holiday season, but I see the same events transpiring this year as well. People are making it clear that they need Christmas more than ever, so I’m sharing the article with new readers this year.)
I first started noticing something different about the second week of November. I drove by a house with a Christmas tree already covered with lights and glowing in the living room window. Then I passed a house with yards and yards of garland and brilliant lights that shouted Christmas for all the world to see.
Now, I’m not talking about the stores and other halls of commerce, which regularly throw all their Christmas stuff on the shelves the week of Halloween just for the sake of making another buck. Although, frankly, that fact doesn’t bother me particularly because I love Christmas and all of its trappings. So I enjoy being able to go up and down the aisles and feast my eyes on these things any time of year. In fact I play Christmas songs and watch Christmas movies all year long. And generally I’m one of the very rare people who decorate before Thanksgiving weekend – almost always the first of all family and neighbors to put up decorations.
And that fact brings me back to my point. I’ve gotten used to people looking at me a little oddly when the huge Blue Spruce in my front yard is lit up in the middle of November – or when they come to my house and find Christmas carols playing in September. But this year I suddenly realized that I was seeing lighted trees and rows of lights and garland around front doors and porch banisters of private homes all over the place at least two whole weeks before Thanksgiving. What was happening here? I didn’t have one light up yet. Surely this many people couldn’t really be so deeply into their Christmas decorating so early!
But as the next two weeks marched by, I heard more and more people say they were eagerly pulling out their decorations and putting up their tree and outside lights. They were actually in a “hurry” to get them up. Amazing! It’s never happened this way before! But then I realized what was behind it all:
This year – more than ever before in my lifetime at least – people “need” Christmas!
Many of them don’t actually recognize that’s what is going on. The people in our nation are hurting in so many ways. Financially, of course, but also emotionally. We have more broken marriages, more estranged teenagers, more child abuse, more unwed mothers, more elderly abuse, more drugs, more crime, more political corruption, more terrorism, and certainly more
fear than ever before. And the average man-on-the-street also knows that all the efforts at “fixing” those problems have failed miserably – not just once – but repeatedly for generations. They know they can’t take much more hurt and fear. And they find themselves desperate to grab hold of something good and secure and full of hope and light.
It is so interesting – and encouraging – to me that they are finding those needs met in CHRISTmas. In the celebration of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, whose birth heralded man’s release from the prison of his own rebellion and sin – and the curse it brought into every aspect of his life. In the celebration of Jesus, whose very name in the original language means deliverance, healing, protection, and wholeness.
True, all of these people aren’t thinking about Jesus specifically when they put up their lighted Santa and reindeer figures, or when they watch movies like “Jingle All The Way.” Everybody won’t be going to church or reading the story from the second chapter of Luke. But the fact remains that this holiday, at its very core, is the conception of a merciful God who loved His erring creation so much that He was willing to give Himself to pay for their error and restore them to His family.
I know there are some who argue that we should not celebrate Christmas at all – partly because Jesus was most likely not born on December 25 and partly because the pagan cultures have a December festival that they feel influences the Christian celebrations. My answer to the first argument is, “Who cares ‘when’ Jesus was born? All that matters is that He ‘was’ born – and that every Christian in the world celebrates that birth on one particular day of the year, every year.” Think about it. There is no other holiday that so unites every single person who calls himself a Christian as Christmas. Even Easter does not get equal world-wide attention.
My answer to the second argument is, “So what? The devil has developed a counterfeit for nearly every positive, Godly event and celebration.” That means nothing. And if we let his counterfeit keep us from designating one day for all Christendom to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are fools.
St. Paul said, in Philippians 1:18, when referring to some who promoted the Gospel for their own carnal reasons, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (NIV).
Frankly, I believe we can apply that same principle to this new surge of “keeping Christmas.” Crying, sighing, dying humanity isn’t just “keeping” Christmas this year. They are “calling” Christmas to come to them. They are welcoming and embracing it as never before because they “need” it so much. And perhaps – just perhaps — in their openness – if we who know Him will pray – they will find the real CHRISTmas after all. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
© 2010 Sandra Conner