It was Christmas morning and all of my family was gathered around the tree where presents were stacked neatly on top of one another.
Like many of you, I decided to take advantage of those precious few moments before the chaos ensued to bring the real meaning of Christmas into the forefront.
I loaded up The Message version of Luke 2 onto my iPad and asked Liam, my 10-year-old son, to read verses 1 through 20. As he was reading aloud the familiar Christmas passage, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the amazing paradox before me: a tree, undergirded with the spoils of hour-long shopping trips, juxtaposed by the retelling of an age-old story of Jesus’ birth in a lowly manger.
My mind began to wander and in those few moments as my son’s voice drifted off into the distance, I began to do a quick self-evaluation: had I done enough this year to help my children discern through the milieu of shiny wrapping paper and expensive video game systems to see that the advent of God’s son was the greatest gift that we could ever have asked for?
As Liam finished up the Luke 2 passage I decided to put my fears to rest by asking my 7-year-old son Jams to tell us all what he thought the true meaning of Christmas was. We all waited with baited breath as he answered:
“Christmas is a time to remember Santa–who was Jesus’ cousin.”
Well, there you have it. The real meaning of Christmas…
My wife and I looked at each other and wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. I mean it’s not as if he hadn’t heard the baby Jesus in a manger story before. After all, he’s been going to church his whole life! So why didn’t he say it? Why didn’t he dissuade all of my fears and tell me what I needed to hear?
I’ll tell you why–because the message that Jams hears about Christmas on TV, in the stores, and on the playground are often much louder and much more consistent than the message we hear at Church during the Christmas Eve service. Those mixed messages affect 7-year-old boys, and if I were to be totally transparent, those messages can affect those little boys’ father, too.
My son’s answer wasn’t exactly right, but it was close. I could tell that he was trying to wrestle Jesus back into Christmas. It was honest and sincere. It was beautiful.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
Although not always connected with the Christmas season, this rarely quoted promise of Jesus has given me great comfort over the holidays. It’s a reminder that the message of the world will come against the message of Christ more loudly and more consistently than we would all like to admit, and that will cause trouble. But take heart, because Jesus has overcome the trouble. He is there with you…even on Christmas morning.
With everything that is going on around us, we cannot just sit and expect Christ to somehow fall into the center of everything we do. We will have to actively pursue it.
May we do everything we can this new year to wrestle Jesus into the center of our lives and ministries.