Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The JOY of Christmas

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the nostalgic, cozy feelings brought on by the sound of Christmas carols, the cheerful twinkle of Christmas lights, the warm reds and golds and the shiny silver baubles. I love the crisp air and deep-green wreaths on the snow-covered houses in our town. I love how the snowy lamppost outside our house reminds me of talking beavers, fur-coats, and the smell of mothballs. And I even love the bustle of Christmas shoppers and the sparkle of decorations in store windows! 

Now that we have kids, we feel the wonder and merriment of Christmas all the more. Our kids can hardly contain themselves waiting for Christmas Day. We put up our nativity and talked about the Christmas story. On Christmas morning we will place baby Jesus in the manger before we do anything else. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! A time for celebration and joy! There's a truly magical feeling that is unique to this time of year, and I am convinced that it radiates from the miracle of Jesus' birth--just like the star that shone so brightly on the night He was born, for all to see.

I loved Kevin De Young's recent post on Christian Christmas Grinches. He writes: 

It seems like every time Christmas rolls around, a couple rage-against-the-Christmas-machine blog posts go viral. The kind that blast Christians for ruining everything with commercialism, toys made in sweatshops, and too many reindeer games. For a season that’s supposed to be full of joy and peace, we can be awfully angry and confrontational this time of year. Downright grinchy at times. Do you or your kids like Santa? Get rid of him. Pronto. He’s fake. He’s not the point. He’s obese and his name is an anagram for Satan. Do you buy toys for your kids? Stop it. They don’t need them. Are you into Christmas trees? So were the pagans. Fuhgeddaboudit. Happy Holidays? Not in my face you don’t. Merry flippin’ Christmas, Walmart Greeter.

It's easy for some of us to get wrapped up in all the negatives surrounding the Christmas season: the war against political correctness; the problem of commercialism; the marginalization of its true meaning. These are important challenges to be aware of. But, I think the best way to overcome these challenges is in experiencing and reflecting the true JOY of the season. The joy of Christmas is contagious! If we let it shine through us, that is a powerful witness. No one wants to be around a bunch of Christian grinches on a rampant witch-hunt for all the pagan influences that have seeped into our Christmas traditions! 

Knowing that I am a "truth-person" (slightly more "head" than "heart" in my spiritual wiring), I am constantly aware of the need to balance grace and truth in what I say and do to others. I feel a great burden to express the truth about tough, sometimes controversial, issues faced in Christianity today (hence this blog!). But there is a time and a place for this. And when I can't hold my tongue any longer, it's usually because of issues that I believe directly impact the gospel. The ministry of those who love the truth and are passionate about guarding it is vital. People who are gifted in apologetics, or in discerning insidious strains of false teaching that have crept into the church, are instrumental in helping believers to watch their lives and doctrine closely in order to save both themselves and those around them (1 Tim 4:16). Sometimes, though, we truth-people can be a little too negative, or tempted to lambaste other believers without much restraint. There is a time for handling the truth accurately (2 Tim 2:15) and also a time to encourage other believers and build up the Body of Christ (1 Thess 5:11). Sometimes, we should say nothing and pray. Other times we should speak up. But whatever we do, we need to do it prayerfully, led by the Holy Spirit, and in the love of Christ. Paul put it so well when he urged us to: "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Eph 4:2-3).

The message of Christmas is truly a positive one of hope. Christmas is a great time of year to spread the good news about Jesus Christ, who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Let's be merry this Christmas!


Norma said...

Stopping by at your invitation on FB. Excellent blog. Keep up the good work.

Maeve McDonald said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Norma!