Every year it’s the same. As soon as stores strip the ‘back-to-school’ merchandise from their shelves, they thrust Christmas upon us. The more developed society becomes, the more ways manufacturers have to bombard us with their commercial approach to Christmas. Billboards, flashing signs, store windows, newspapers, flyers, junk mail, email, and the Internet, all are overloaded with red and green shopping-day countdowns. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Midnight Madness, the commercialization of Christmas continues.
Manufacturers and sellers are not the only ones guilty of declaring a race to the Christmas finish line. Churches set their sights on December 25th as well. Before autumn begins, they recruit choir members for cantatas. Every actor, seamstress, techie, carpenter, and volunteer warming a pew is beckoned to be part of the biggest, best, Christmas program ever. It’s difficult to differentiate between a church or shopping mall any more…red, green, gold, silver, snowflakes, candles, decorated trees, everything but Santa and his elves. Church departments vie for December dates highlighting their Christmas presentation and party, further overloading calendars and wallets.
Charities use Christmas as a marketing tool to increase donations. The same financial needs they have throughout the year somehow sound more pressing with pictures of snowflakes falling on promotional literature. Large and small companies, organizations, and institutions organize toy, clothing, and food drives. “Give, give, give,” they plead.
Year after year, I wander through glitter, gold, and greed, wondering why it’s reserved for December 25th. Tired of my own negativity and skepticism, I set out to find answers.
Shopping malls, store clerks, Santa, and secularism left me clueless.
Churches failed to shed light on my pursuit. They preached peace on earth in the midst of their hectic schedules, frazzled congregation, glitz, and glamour.
Meditation didn’t provide the peace or joy this holiday is claimed to offer.
After hours in bookstores, reading gurus and experts explain the meaning of life and Christmas, my confusion and doubt doubled.
The other night, my disgruntled attitude and I sat down in my undecorated living room to watch television. Slumping into my chair, I grabbed my remote control. I was exhausted and emotionally drained. The whole Christmas thing had gotten to me. So did the folks that called me Scrooge. The show I wanted to watch was preempted with an animated Christmas special for children. Too tired to scan for something else to watch, I slumped further into my despair and worn sofa. Then the familiar music began.
It had been many years since I had watched the one character I could identify with in my childhood…Charlie Brown. As Charlie wandered about his world, searching for the true meaning of Christmas, I found myself sitting up.
“Yea Charlie, you tell ‘em!” I cheered as Charlie’s frustration with his sister and friends mounted. “I’m with ya buddy!” Sally, Snoopy, Lucy, and Schroeder disappointed Charlie as my family and friends had disappointed me. As in my past, I identified with Charlie Brown’s misfit character. His search for the true meaning of December’s 25th day was also mine. As my solidarity with Charlie grew, I found myself smiling. That is, until Linus took center stage.
One little disheveled kid carrying a security blanket knew what Christmas was really about. No doubts or questions, just confidence in the biblical account he shared. Linus, clinging to his blanket, struck me as quite self-assured about the meaning of Christmas and in what he believed.
I had listened, read, and pondered many explanations about Christmas; the babble and slogans, songs and sermons, never rang true to me. Yet watching Linus standing in that spotlight somehow illuminated my understanding of Christmas. It’s not about peace, joy, family, friends, traditions, celebrations, food, or the spirit of giving. Nor is Christmas about bright stars, shepherds, sheep, mangers, donkeys, Mary and Joseph not finding a room at the Inn, or even about baby Jesus.
Christmas is about God so loving the world that He sent His only son to die for us.* Christmas is about God’s Son willing coming to earth to die for our sins. It’s not about believing in one day a year, but in living 365 days a year. It’s not a December thing, but an eternity thing. No slogans, programs, preaching, gimmicks, glitter, or gifts; the greatest gift of all has already been given.
I cannot change how the world celebrates Christmas, but one child carrying a blanket led me to the true significance of the Christ child. Christmas is about receiving.
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