Christmas is almost here, and 2020 is almost over. I’ve been savoring as much of this holiday season as I can because this crazy year has inspired me to stop taking the little joys in life for granted. Crowded malls, ice skating rinks, and Christmas light shows didn’t draw me in prior to 2020, but now, I’m itching to experience new adventures with close friends and family. I suppose you might say I used to let my own life and various things get in the way of those “little joys” in much the same way I allowed the tests and trials we’ve endured this year to distract me, momentarily, from the joy of living for Jesus in a tumultuous age.
But isn’t this the way our human mind often works? We get busy, we get stressed, and we get distracted. We often allow the external world and internal pressures and plans to absorb our attention and sway our emotions.
How often—amidst holiday planning, Christmas shopping, decorating, and baking—have you allowed yourself this season to stop and think about the importance of why we celebrate Christmas? How often have you meditated on the fact that our God, who didn’t need to leave His Throne in Heaven, came down to us, wrapped Himself in flesh, lived among us on this earth, raised disciples, performed miracles, and endured persecution and rejection only to die an excruciating death on the Cross to save us from our sins before raising Himself from the tomb so that we don’t have to pay the eternal price for our own mistakes? Sure, many of us may have heard this message preached and have read it in the Gospels one thousand times, especially this time of year, but how often do we really allow ourselves to take time out and thank God that He came for us?
Life gets busy. We’ve got relatives coming over for Christmas, or we have to visit relatives’ houses, or we have to help plan or participate in a Christmas play, or we have to do all of these things and manage to keep our stress levels down so we, too, can enjoy Christmas day. The hustle and bustle often causes many to dread the holidays and long for Christmas to be over before it’s even begun, but we cannot allow the commercialization of Christmas to wear down our spirits and dampen our enthusiasm for celebrating the birth of our Savior. We cannot allow the true meaning of Christmas to become lost amidst all the planning, baking, gift-opening, gatherings, activities, and cute decorations. And so, to help you keep your mind focused on the real reason why we celebrate Christmas for the remainder of this week as you gather with loved ones near or far, here are three things you can spot around you that symbolize aspects of the true story of Christmas:
1. The Christmas Tree Topper
On top of our Christmas tree is a bright star that we purchased from Walmart a few years ago. We replaced our 20-year-old angel topper that I remember from my childhood. It was a beautiful angel–small and clothed in a simple white robe. It had blonde curls and a tiny halo, and its hands were pressed together and its eyes closed like it was praying. I have many memories of getting this angel out with the Christmas décor every year and seeing it lit atop the tree, looking as though it were silently meditating on the birth of our King as it glowed a soft yellow light. Now, our star topper glows with an even softer yellow light than our angel did, but nearly every time I look at it, I think of this line from an old Christmas song: “A star, a star, dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.”
This line is, of course, from the song “Do You Hear What I Hear,” which is from the perspective of various elements or participants in the Christmas story, but it calls to mind how the star in the east guided the wise men to Jesus. Perhaps as you look at your star or angel topper this year, it will remind you to draw near to our King and worship Him for His Glory.
(9) “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
(10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
~Matthew 2:9-10 (KJV)
2. The Gifts Under The Tree
Under our Christmas tree are gifts for each member of our family that we open each Christmas morning. In a house of introverts, our gift-opening is very calm and relaxing. I have the job of turning on our Christmas Pandora radio station on the screen for background music and pulling out the gifts from under the tree. My sister directs the correct gifts to each recipient, and then we wait as our parents open theirs first. Then, my sister and I open our stockings and other presents, and as we all gradually open our gifts, we smile, chuckle, offer gratitude, and make sure the cats don’t chew on the wrapping paper.
But we don’t give out gifts for our own enjoyment only. The tradition of gift-giving is to commemorate how the wise men brought gifts to the child-King Jesus.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” ~Matthew 2:11 (KJV)
Perhaps the gifts under your Christmas tree are in gold wrapping paper or have gold bows taped to the top of each gift like ours do. Perhaps as each of us unwrap our gifts this year and watch loved ones open theirs, the gold paper and bows will remind us of the treasures the wise men gave to Jesus. Perhaps the gifts will remind us how Jesus gave His life for us. And perhaps they’ll remind us how we should offer up ourselves and our worship as our gift to Him.
3. The Nativity Scene
We’ve had the same nativity, or manger, scene for as long as I can remember, and it’s as well put together as it was when I was a child. In my own room, I have a manger scene and pictures depicting this scene as well. In both rooms, this scene is at the center of all other Christmas decorations. It wouldn’t seem fitting to place a tree or some other decoration in the center and leave the manger scene to the side. The manger scene depicts the birth of our King with other figures from the story of His birth gazing down at our Savior. It’s a mesmerizing scene to behold, reminding us of the miracle of our great God putting Himself in one tiny body as a newborn baby to live on earth and become our resurrected King. The manger scene captures the awe of that moment when His Creation, both man and nature, beheld the glory of our Messiah.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
~Luke 2:10-14 (KJV)
As you open gifts, devour Christmas dinner and festive desserts, and chat with loved ones this week, all you have to do to stay focused on Him is look around and spot the symbols that represent the birth of our King. You can pass around gifts and remember the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. You can gaze at your lit tree and meditate on the star of Bethlehem or the angels glorifying the newborn King. You can glance over at the nativity scene and visualize the night our long-prophesied Messiah was born, the evidence of hope and light in the darkness for His people then and for us even now.
Our hope is in Jesus, whose miraculous birth we must not allow the distractions of this world to overshadow. Jesus is the reason for the season.
Breathe Pray Repeat will be on a brief break until this coming Monday as I celebrate our King Jesus with my family. Merry Christmas to all BPR readers and subscribers! I appreciate all of you and hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration with loved ones.