"Christmas seems to have lost something this year."
Matthew's observation was tossed into the dinner table conversation without any introduction. Although it seemed to come from out of nowhere, I had a feeling that it had possibly been prompted by his realisation a few hours earlier that Christmas Day was just a little over a week away.
There were a number of reasons why Christmas seemed different for Matt this year. However the main factor definitely had to be that he wasn't enjoying his usual lazy lead up to the big event. Although school had finished for the year on the 11th December, our sixteen-year-old son had been working a few days each week with his Dad since then and so hadn't really had much of an opportunity to get into a Christmas holiday frame of mind.
As Matt poked half-heartedly at the food on his plate I offered another fairly obvious reason for the general sense of "Christmaslessness".
"Could that lost something be Christ perhaps?"
Raising his eyebrows in mock surprise Matt turned his full attention toward me and said, "You know, you could just be right!"
It was his very polite, if slightly sarcastic way of saying, "Well d'uh!"
Although Nativity Scenes do still make an appearance each year in quite a large number of shopping centres in Australia and while crowds do still flock to the parks en mass for the overabundance of carols by candlelight events, there is no question as to who it is that most of the population considers to be the star of the "show" -- with a "ho, ho, ho!"
Jesus is the only reason for the season, but that truth seems to slip a little further into the background with every passing year. Sadly, even if Christ were to be taken out of Christmas, very little about the annual celebration would change for a significantly large number of people in the world today.
With that thought in mind we returned to our evening meal until Matthew made one last observation.
"I don’t know ... it's just gotten so darn commercial."
Even though I was in full agreement and had come to that "revelation" years ago, I still couldn't resist responding in a way that was reminiscent of his reply to me just moments earlier.
From there the conversation drifted along the path that was sign-posted by Matt's little comments. Then with dinner over, we each headed off to our own pursuits -- which in my case meant making lunches for the following day and doing the washing up.
As I cleaned the kitchen my thoughts just naturally continued to toss around the things that Matthew had said. Of course the commercialisation of Christmas is, without a doubt, becoming more and more blatant every year. Yet I couldn't help thinking that this was more of a symptom of the real problem, rather than the cause. Sort of a "secondary infection".
Then I found myself wondering whether the lack that Matt was feeling was entirely due to the largely Christless Christmases of western society or whether there was something more.
You see as I thought about it I realised that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will always be the central focus of Christmas for those who believe. Regardless of how the world may choose to celebrate this day and whether or not we accept that the 25th December is His literal birthday, we still set that day aside to rejoice in the wondrous truth that two thousand years ago "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14 NIV)
So I had to ask, what causes a Christian to feel flat or overwhelmed in the lead up to Christmas?
No sooner did I pose the question than the answer came -- "Christmas Tizz"!
"Christmas Tizz" is what hits us anywhere from mid-October until the moment we close our weary eyes to sleep on the 24th December.
"Christmas Tizz" is what spins us around in a whirlwind of activity in the effort of making this one day as good as, or better than, every previous Christmas. It pushes people to overindulge, overspend, overwork and generally overdo just about everything.
For a lot of people, "Christmas Tizz" is actually the highlight of their year. They thrive on the activity and the general sense of good feeling they get from their preparations. However, for every person who adores the “buzz” there’s at least one at the other end of the scale who just shakes their head as they’re propelled faster and faster along this annual roller-coaster ride, wishing that there were some way to get off (and feeling just a little guilty about that at the same time).
So whether we are one of those exuberant people who just adore everything about the season, or whether we are one of the others who find the lead up all nearly unbearable, we really need to change our focus from “Christmas Tizz” to what Christmas IS!
For those who believe, Christmas IS a time of peace, ushered in by the Prince of Peace who some thirty-three years after his birth told his disciples:
Not peace by the world’s standards, but rather an abiding peace that comes from knowing that God is in control and that He cares for us completely.
Christmas IS a time of hope, as we see in that miraculous birth the first physically visible unfolding of God's plan to offer new, abundant life to mankind -- life that would be eternal. As the Apostle Paul wrote of the Lord's later sacrifice:
In a world that has exchanged wishes for hope, we have a certain assurance because of the truth of what Christmas is.
Christmas IS also a time of joy as we follow the Magi's example from so long ago and seek the One who was born King of kings:
Quite simply, the Christmas story is a reason to be overflowing with joy. As the angel reassured the Shepherds on that marvellous night:
Finally, Christmas IS a time of indescribable love as we receive the greatest gift that God could ever have bestowed upon us. The Apostle John is often referred to as "the Apostle of love" because he focussed so much on the amazing love of God in his writings to the church. Is it any wonder then that he should have been the one to write the most well-known Gospel verse of all:
In the birth of Christ, our Heavenly Father expressed the fathomless depths of His love for a world that had largely stopped loving Him in any way. That very same perfect love is still held out to all who will receive this most precious of gifts today.
When you think about it, the need for "Christmas Tizz" revolves largely around the world's desire to recreate in some way each of these God-given things -- whether they realise it or not.
So as Christians, it doesn't really matter all that much whether we choose to get caught up in the whirlwind of "Christmas Tizz" or not. Whether we thrive on all the activity or would rather avoid it altogether isn't that important. What does matter at the end of the day is that we've kept all the "Christmas Tizz" in the background of what Christmas truly IS. When we do that, nothing could ever possibly seem "lost" from Christmas Day.
Send Debbie an E-mail