Nothing More, Nothing Less
“Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” Hebrews 12:2(CSB)
It’s interesting as we grow older how there is a vast difference in the events and activities we anticipate. Children anticipate birthdays, teenagers anticipate the day they are old enough to drive, high school students anticipate graduation, and college students anticipate a full-time paying job. Relationships change and young adults anticipate love, romance, and marriage. Young married adults anticipate becoming parents, and young parents can’t wait to watch their child grow and mature.
This never ceasing cycle places us all in a quandary of constant change evolving on a track that continues to race at lightning speed. Those finding themselves as senior adults anticipate a visit from their distant children, the joy of grand parenting, the anxiety of when to retire, and the apprehension of what life will look like after the passing of a spouse. All of this anticipation, if not handled properly, can create a life of anxiety, depression, disappointment, and unhealthy expectations.
I believe making time for the purpose of personal reflection and devotional study during this season is essential. As Christmas approaches, we find birthed within our hearts an anticipation of this special holiday. Christmas has become for many, a holiday that has somehow lost its focus and fervor in the lives of unbelievers and believers alike.
The significant reason for such a loss of anticipation and excitement for Christmas is because the focus of the celebration has been taken off of Jesus. This answer sounds so judgmental and insensitive, but let's unpack this thought and find out the sum of this decision.
When people are surveyed about the meaning of the Christmas season, many answers are given that are not necessarily wrong, but they can all lead to a reality that will ultimately bring disappointment and create an unhealthy outlook or dread. Here are a few of the common answers:
Some of our greatest memories of Christmas, I’m sure, have something to do with family. I know mine do! Up until the time I graduated college, my mother’s family all gathered at my grandparents on Christmas Eve. Some years we had as many as sixty people in their tiny home. This created some great memories, but now that grandparents, parents, and other significant members are no longer alive or no longer living nearby this gathering ceased.
I have been immeasurably blessed with a great family. A beautiful wife and wonderful boys, who are handsome and hard-working young men. The ministry has taken us, what seems at times, to the far corners of the world, but each of these corners seems to be further and further away from family.
In the twenty-five years of marriage, Tina and I have been with extended family at Christmas less than 50% of the time.
We have had great celebrations on our own, taken some memorable trips during the holidays, and had quiet dinners around our table and tree. But each year we still long to be with family. With the advent of FaceTime and Skype, we open gifts via the web, share stories, and express thanks. This has enriched the day, but there continues to be a longing to be together.
If Christmas is all about family, there will come a time when it’s a day you will dread. We don’t live forever! The family unit evolves.
There’s got to be more to the holiday than just family.
In thirty years of ministry, there have been numerous families that have come to our churches for assistance in acquiring gifts for their children. Giving is something I look forward to each year. Parents are constantly seeking “the perfect” gifts to give their children so they will not be disappointed at Christmas.
The western world has become such a consumer-driven society. There is not a season that goes by where either the givers felt guilty because they failed in providing enough, or the recipients felt the gifts did not express enough thought.
There’s got to be more to the holiday than just presents.
3. Comparing our Inside with Someone Else’s Outside
As a pastor, one of the most troubling aspects of the Christmas season is the amount of excessive drinking, self-medicating, and suicide that is found during the season. Each year the stories of heartbreak seem to become more in number. I understand now why the Scriptures are so full of text that redirect our focus from what we can see to what we can’t see. The struggle comes in trying to make Jesus the object of our affection and not only what we can see.
Mark Twain, not known as a spiritual father, got it right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There’s got to be more to the holiday than comparing what I have to someone else. If Christmas is not about family, presents, and keeping up with others, then what is it about?
It’s all about Jesus, nothing more, nothing less.
When our focus is on Jesus during the holiday season, it has the ability to transform our hearts and minds. When it becomes about Him, the way we see the season explodes with feelings of hope, joy, love, and peace.
What can I do this Christmas season to redirect my focus so that Jesus is the object of my affection?