Christmas: To Celebrate or Not

Recently my husband and his coworkers have been discussing the appropriate way to celebrate Christmas. He works for a Christian ministry whose staff spans the gamut of theological understanding, and their approach to this topic is similarly varied. Some celebrate Christmas traditionally, while others think it’s too materialistic and either subdue their celebration or avoid it altogether. As he’s relayed their discussions to me, I’ve found myself pondering how we ought to celebrate Christmas. I admit that I often feel overwhelmed by Christmas because it comes on the heels of what I affectionately call Birthday-Palooza in our house. My husband and our three children all have birthdays between October 31 and December 17, and by the time Christmas arrives, sometimes I’m ready to chuck the idea of celebration forever. But after much thought, I’ve concluded that rather than avoiding or toning down Christmas, we Christian moms should embrace it because both its physical and immaterial aspects point us and our children to the ultimate Incarnation: eternal God in flesh.

First, I think we should embrace Christmas celebrations because they point to the importance of Christ’s Incarnation. Some Christians feel that Christmas trees, gifts, or celebration in general distract from focusing on Christ’s birth, but I disagree. Consider the important events you’ve helped to plan. Weddings, graduations, and even baby showers require thoughtful preparation. There are guest lists, food, decorations, entertainment, and party favors to consider. Of course, you can have a marriage or graduation or baby without these events, but the events themselves point to the significance of these milestones. The same is true of Christmas. The counting down, purchasing gifts, baking treats, and singing carols serve as a reminder that Jesus’ birth was the event of the universe. Our Creator enfleshing himself to be Immanuel—God with us—was so monumental that it deserves feasting and delight. We, too, are flesh. We have taste buds, eyes, olfactory nerves, and ears. The God who gave us these senses delights to see us use them to celebrate His goodness with food, lights, scents, and music. Doing so points to the weight of His joining us in our humanity.

We should also embrace celebration and festivity because they create wonder. Our naturalistic culture leaves no room for awe, and frankly, that makes life boring and insipid. We all—children and adults alike—long for the reminder that there is something beyond, and we long for it because we were created for it. We were designed to stand in wonder of the One who is “called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Christmas celebrations, with their twinkling lights and bells and scents of cinnamon and dazzling trees help to restore that wonder, creating an opportunity to point our children to the wondrous God who concocted a wondrous plan to send His wondrous Son to rescue His people from their sins. As moms, we make Christmas what it is in our homes. The food and decorating and gifts—however we flesh them out with the resources and gifts God has given us—are our chance to use the in-flesh nature of Christmas celebrations to point our children to the first and most glorious enfleshing of all: the Incarnation. Christmas gives us an opportunity to say, “Taste and see this beauty and deliciousness in front of you and imagine! What God has done for us is even more beautiful and delicious than this!”

Finally, we should embrace Christmas because it builds anticipation for the great wedding feast which we will enjoy for all eternity with Christ. Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, are an opportunity to teach our children about expectation. The Jews waited expectantly for their Messiah to come, and He did. And now we are waiting expectantly for His return when He will set all things right, and He will! We practice feasting and delight at set times now because in the new heavens and new earth, we will feast and delight forevermore. Anticipation is sweet. My daughter told me recently that her favorite part of the Christmas season is Christmas Eve, because “it feels hopeful, like we’re waiting for something magical.” She’s right. Magic is exactly what we’re waiting for: the deep magic, as Aslan calls it in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.

We can help our kids make the connection between our tangible celebration and the intangible truth it represents and points toward. We can remind them (and ourselves!) that we’re celebrating because what Jesus did for us was so glorious that we must celebrate gloriously. The Incarnation is the marvelous transformation of the intangible into the tangible, so let’s sing and eat and drink and marvel accordingly.

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