I know it’s a cliché, especially in the USA, but it’s true: Jesus IS the reason for the season! It’s so true that I didn’t hesitate to have it printed on our Christmas cards this year.
For a guy who worked in management for the world’s largest retailer for 4 years after college, I recall being frustrated at the secularizing and “retailizing” of the season and gifts and money to be made. One Christmas Eve after only having about 3 or 4 days off since Thanksgiving a month earlier, I was even challenged by a customer on my closing the store two minutes early at 5:58 and not at exactly 6:00 pm. Perhaps he was Swiss (at the time I didn’t have my Swiss passport yet), but my watch showed the time clearly stating 5:58 and actually he was right, it was two minutes early. I smiled back (although frustrated inside that this guy waited until the last moments to care enough to give such thoughtful and loving gifts) and stated, “Sir, perhaps you’re right, but I got 140 people in here working Christmas Eve that would love to get home to their families as soon as possible- so it’s close enough for me!”, I then picked up the phone and again announced over the loudspeaker that it was time for all those still shopping to bring their final items to the front where our friendly cashiers were there to serve them! And this is just a story about retail shopping and not about how the world and public places and schools are only saying “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” in fear of offending someone by saying “Merry CHRISTmas”! By the way, since I seem to be the grinch against anti Christmas-er’s my biggest pet peeve this time of the year is the term “X-Mas” that is often used in deleting the main word that counts, “C-H-R-I-S-T”!
But then it happened………..one Christmas Eve in 1997, the same year after leaving retail, I found myself in our church’s Christmas Cantata singing tenor alongside about 40 other singers in the choir. Each following year more folks sang in the choir and even a full blown drama cast was added (including the star donkey named Flapjack) to present to our community that Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas! It was a wonderful highlight for our church to reach into our community to those that wouldn’t normally step foot in a church. I got to admit that this past Sunday at LIFT I was close to having a tear (just one!) form in my eyes watching those 6 or 7 lil’ LIFT’er’s dressed up as angels, shepherds and of course the baby Jesus singing Away in a Manger, knowing that in a few hours they would be singing it again but not within the walls of LIFT, but at a local international gathering that for years has had Christmas parties while intentionally leaving Jesus out. What a blessing for those kids and their families to boldly go and share Jesus via song and drama into our community! What a blessing for those who were reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season.
One other thing going back to 1997 that happened and I didn’t realize it at the time. Although out of retail, but still quite busy working hard during the Christmas season like everyone else, I realized that Tanya and I were creating our own family traditions of Christmas and passing it on to our kids and clearly including Jesus as the central role of celebrating His birth and gift from God to creation! From the cantata at church (in which one year Tanya was the angel) followed by our family fondue, to special ornaments, to usually inviting others that didn’t have family around, to getting permits to cutting our trees (that truly looked like poor Charlie Brown trees) in the nearby forest, each and every year we somehow added a new memory, created something special for our family Christmas, just as I had as a kid myself with my mom and dad and two older brothers alongside extended family.
I realize that for many, it is such a difficult time of year as current family circumstances (or past family experiences) may not be such warm and positive memories. But this is also the point of all of us being reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season, and for all, He is our gift of love and grace from God, who pursues us in relationship to Him……and others! It’s never to late to make your 2008 kinda like my 1997, a fresh start to renew your love of CHRISTmas and begin new traditions for you and your family, even if they are far away (physically or relationally).
After the first Christmas season of LIFT in 2004, when the Eales were away in South Africa and the Best’s didn’t attempt to go solo for a Christmas service, LIFT had it’s first Christmas Eve service in 2005 with mainly Christmas carols and a brief Christmas message. It’s now our “family” tradition of LIFT and each year it’s grown. Again this year, in our new church home at Ibelweg 18 we will have our Christmas Eve Service from 6 – 7 pm. We’re even thinking about singing the last song by candlelight (anyone know how to find 150 candles with those little white paper rings around them?). Although many are traveling abroad, many others are coming from abroad as well to visit family here. It’s also a great way to reach into our German speaking community around us and invite someone to come hear and sing those English Christmas carols!
Cliché or not, I don’t mind putting “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” on our family Christmas card. I pray that we as LIFT can also share this truth, not only on our Christmas cards, but also by our lifestyles this CHRISTmas season and give away the real gift of Christmas…..Jesus!
His grip and grace,