This Has to be a Meaningful Christmas . . . or Else

Jesus is going to have some pretty tough competition in the cities of Philadelphia and Dallas on December 25th. It’s all because of what happened Sunday night.

On Sunday night the Philadelphia Eagles, my hometown football team, defeated the New York Giants, giving the birds an 8-6 record. Yet this victory is not so amazing. What’s amazing is that I suddenly care about how the Eagles are doing after they seemed to self-destruct in the middle of the season. Even Julie is shocked by my sudden turn around.

As a result of this win, the 8-6 Eagles play the 9-5 Cowboys who are in the same division. A win for the Eagles puts them in a tie for first place and a good chance at making the play offs (not that they’ll do a whole lot in the play offs), while a win for Dallas basically gives them the division title. And this game, this game that will be watched by so many, is happening on Christmas Day.

But I didn’t mean to blabber about football, I want to talk about Christmas. And surely this football game is just a sideshow for the main the event, the reason why we gather together: swapping presents . . . I mean celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus. If only it were. It’s become a commercialized adaptation of a pagan holiday with some Christianity sprinkled in. It’s about time off from work, getting together with family, swapping gifts, and going to church if that’s your thing.

So what should we do about this mess? We typically try to fight the tide by trying to have a really spiritual, meaningful Christmas. We focus really, really hard on Jesus. We sing songs, clutch candles, hear the stories, all the while our voice mails are filled with calls from relatives, gifts are hidden in our cars, and we keep thinking about all of the cooking and cleaning we have to do.

Of course singing Silent Night by candle light doesn’t always create the mystical experience we crave. We often leave church or walk away from our times of meditation feeling just as empty and hurried as we began them, albeit, a few hours behind. Where do we find meaning in Christmas?

One thought: plant something. Instead of looking for Christmas to be this amazing time where God swoops down from heaven, bops you on the head, and you consequently lay on the floor convulsing from the amazing revelation, ask God to begin something in you that can take root and then grow over this coming year.

Silence, solitude, generosity, patience, gentleness, etc. These are all very simple things. Ask God where he wants to work on you and make that one thing your seed. Let’s open our hearts to the Lord and allow him to sow his life into us.

Expecting something small may even require more faith than it takes to expect something large and amazing. This is faith for the long haul.