In our family we have a Christmas tradition of taking pictures with Santa. We do this each and every year, normally incorporating a special holiday meal after the picture is taken. Since 1999 when we were newlyweds, we’ve been faithfully doing these annual pictures.
One year (2001) we had plans to take a quick picture with Santa and then head to dinner with friends. We didn’t have much time because our Christmas season was so busy. As we approached the “Santa Station” in the mall we noticed with disdain Santa was nowhere to seen. “He’s on a break” one of the elves explained. Hmm…not good. How are we going to take a Santa picture with no Santa? I gave the elf an extra $5 and asked if we could sit in Santa’s throne and take our annual picture. No problem! He replied and thus, that is how we came to have a Santa picture with no Santa Claus. When people visit our house now and look at the last 13 years of pictures, most of the time people don’t even realize that one year, Santa wasn’t even in the picture!
My point? These days it can often seem that we don’t really need Jesus for our current celebration of the Christmas season. Just as Heather and I didn’t need Santa to continue the tradition, I wonder if Christ’s absence during the Christmas season would even be noticed? We’ve turned Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the “anti-materialism”, “justice for all” Savior into a kooky, present filled, orgy of gluttony.
The Advent season, the time of expectation and awaiting of the coming King, should be a time centered on Jesus Christ. We wait. We long for His arrival. We tell stories of His goodness. And we tell others about the significance of the baby from Bethlehem that would change the world forever. Before Christ’s birth, we were cut off from God because of our own sin and fallenness. Humans could approach God through purity and cleanliness and worshipping at the temple. But no matter how hard humans tried, we couldn’t get it right. So God fixed it. He sent His son, part of the Holy Trinity, to a simple birth in a barn in a backwater town called Bethlehem. And Jesus, God in a Human Bod, lived among the people, healing and teaching and changing the rules of the game. This was the same Jesus who was later put to death on a cross and rose 3 days later. It is the victory that we celebrate at Easter. But before all that, there is a beautifully simple birth story in a barn.
The challenge this month in the chaos of the Christmas season is to continue to think about Jesus. Tell stories about Jesus. Let your life shine for Jesus. This is how we fight back against the cultural forces of Black Friday. This is how we swim upstream and leave Christ on the throne. So that on Christmas Day, as we celebrate Christ’s birth, we would realize that nothing is missing– we are celebrating the very Savior who makes our lives whole.