This morning I ran an errand to the local pharmacy. When I got up to the counter, I had to wait for the clerk to process my request, so I took the opportunity to ask how her day was going. She replied, “Busy.” I responded by saying I wasn't surprised, as it's Christmastime, and so lots of folks are out and about. She gave me a small smile, and said, “Yes, things have changed a lot since I was young!”
If I had to guess, I would say she was probably in her early 60's, which means that her growing up years would have been similar to mine. So I told her I could relate, and then asked her what in particular she missed about those days. She said, “Oh lots of things, but mostly just the meaning behind Christmas. Growing up, my minister always said that Christmas was more about a cross than a tree - and I feel like nowadays I have to fight really hard to see that.” She then went on to talk about the commercialism of the holiday, the hectic pace of life, and what she referred to as “token” Christmas events at churches.
The longer she talked, the more frustrated she became - and I think she must have noticed, because she suddenly stopped and said, “I'm sorry, this is a subject I feel strongly about. I hope I haven't offended you.” Then she got a very panicked look on her face, and asked me if I was Jewish. I told her not to worry, that I was a Christian, and that I totally understood some of her frustrations. I finished by telling her that maybe we should both commit to praying that our brothers and sisters in Christ would commit to celebrating the holiday without getting caught up in the secular approach the world takes. She thought that sounded like a good plan, and wished me a, “VERY merry Christmas!”
As I walked out of the store, I found myself thinking about what her minister had said to her all those years ago: Christmas is more about a cross than a tree. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a great little phrase that is, because truth is, the Christmas story leads us to the cross. Acts 2:23 explains it like this, “It was God's prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, He was nailed to the cross and murdered.” From the very beginning, God’s plan was for Jesus to be crucified. So when Mary became pregnant, when she and Joseph got on that donkey and went to Bethlehem, when the angels appeared to the shepherds, and when the wise men dropped by - it was all part of God’s plan to put Jesus on the cross. That's why Jesus came to earth, and that's the reality of Christmas.
And the reason God did all of this is because He loves us more than we will ever be able to understand. That's why He gave us this amazing gift of a child born in a manger - that led to a Savior being crucified on the cross. So today, as we go through all the rush and activity that comes with Christmas, let's ask God to help us remember that Christmas is really about redemption. Let's ask Him to help us take an honest look at our lives and see where we’re living as if Christmas never happened. And then let's surrender those areas to Him - asking for forgiveness, and committing to a life of serving God not just as we prepare for Christmas, but for the rest of our lives.