I find myself intrigued by why people do what they do. In my intrigue, I try my best not to judge, but to simply observe. What makes it so intriguing is that often people are truly unaware of why they do what they do. They just do it! People don’t usually want to admit it when they’re motivated by greed or self-gratification, so it’s left completely out of the cognitive process. My intrigue goes crazy during the holiday season. It starts with Halloween. Why do we do this trick-or-treating thing? Why do we dress up in costumes? Why all the focus on death, spirits and dark themes? Seriously! Do we even have a real answer to these questions? Thanksgiving is no better. Why turkey? Why do we overeat? How does football fit into the equation? I can’t imagine most people would really tell you that Thanksgiving is about giving God thanks for what He’s given us.
Christmas is the most intriguing holiday by far. I can hardly think about Christmas any more without some thought of rampant consumerism. In many stores, Christmas music played while the Halloween decorations were still being sold. Why? People are seriously willing to shop at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day. Why? Christmas lights, why? Christmas trees, why? Ornaments, why? Cookies, why? Gifts, why? Music, why? Cheer, why? The vast majority of people in America participate in all these things, yet… why? Are there really any answers? If we’re truly honest, are we motivated by anything more than empty tradition and self-indulgence?
We don’t know what date Jesus was born. Seriously. December 25th was chosen over a long period of time in the development of the church year calendar. So, when I ask, “Why December 25th?” I can’t even accept the answer, “It’s Jesus’ birthday!” It’s not. But it is the day we celebrate when God humbled himself to become a creature like us. That day the punishing pains of childbirth finally brought forth a child without sin. On that day that prophets risked their lives to foretell. It’s the day each of us Jesus followers must remember as the dawn of our salvation. God with us. Yahweh has come to save. Eternal life begins in a manger.
Mean it This Time
You won’t see me hanging a sign this year saying “Remember the Reason for the Season” or anything like that. Our society is too far gone to be convinced by a clever sign. What our world needs are Christian disciples who fill every act of their Christmas celebration with meaning. We naturally do things differently when we’ve answered the “why” question. There is intentionality, a purpose, a dedication that cannot be replicated when we’re just going through the motions. Hanging lights this year? Why? Answer the question first and then be ready to strike up a conversation about the light of the world coming as a baby, or the star that appeared to the Magi. Putting up a tree? Hanging a wreath? Giving gifts? Coming to worship? Stop. Answer the question “why?” first, and don’t’ just fill it with “a reason” to make you feel better. Fill your holiday actions with truth so that the next time you talk with someone about Christmas, you’ll be able to bust through the small talk and get to the good stuff. Jesus is born.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18