3 Things That Remind Us of The True Meaning of Christmas as We Celebrate

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.

~Caitlin Hale

My Top Christmas Worship Songs

It’s that magical time of year when Christmas music echoes from loud speakers in malls, grocery stores, and town squares, creating an atmosphere of joy and cheer or at least reminding rushed shoppers of how soon Christmas will be here and of how little time they have left to check off the Christmas gifts on their list. I love it all—the Christmas tunes, the jingling of the bells that mall Santas carry, the countdown to Christmas day. Every year, I gleefully wrap Christmas gifts as Christmas songs play on my Pandora station, and I excitedly make fudge, yule log cake, Christmas cookies, and apple tart with “White Christmas” and other popular songs on in the background. Yes, Christmas music is an essential part of my holiday traditions. But there’s more to Christmas than presents and baking, because, of course, we celebrate Christmas to commemorate Christ’s first coming—His birth as our Savior.

I love finding new Christmas songs that worship Jesus and bring to mind how He came from a throne in Heaven to live here on earth and die for us so that we don’t have to pay the price for our sins. He already paid it. His decision as our Creator to love us unconditionally and die for us never ceases to amaze me.

We’re unworthy. Undeserving. But He came anyway.

This season is a reminder of the fact that God is love. Jesus loves us more than we could ever fathom, and when we celebrate Christmas and His birth, we’re also celebrating the fact that He will come again someday soon to take us from this dark and sinful world to live with Him forever.

Here are ten of my top Christmas worship songs that I listen to this season to celebrate His birth and unconditional love for us. Whether you’re in your car or wrapping Christmas gifts, add them to your playlist and worship along! If there are any other Christmas worship songs on your favorites list, let me know in the comments below!

His Name Shall Be by Matt Redman

It Came to Pass by Vertical Worship

The First Noel by Mark Condon, ft. Shara McKee and Ryan Johns

Noel by Lauren Daigle

Messiah by Francesca Battistelli

Worship Medley by Mark Condon, ft. Farrah Easter and Shara McKee

Jesus Came by Mark Condon, ft. Farrah Easter and Ryan Johns

Behold Him by Francesca Battistelli

Let Us Adore by Elevation Worship

Offering (Christmas Version) by Umobile Worship

Our True Value

30% off sales galore
On toys and clothes from every store!
Hurry to get them before they’re all gone
When the Black Friday shoppers battle at dawn!

Shopping carts clash and fights become petty;
You buy all the things but run out of money.

~a poem by yours truly. Quite Shakespearean, don’t you think?

•••••

Black Friday has commenced once again, and I may have bought fuzzy socks on sale, but even I have to remind myself every year that “things” are not why we’re here. If we’re not careful, we can become obsessed with buying and acquiring all the things we think we want–shoes, appliances, boats, new hunting gear, or whatever we’ve set our sights on. Before we know it, materialism has consumed our pocketbook and corrupted our sense of value. Many consumers wind up finding their happiness in the things they acquire as though they’ve won trophies and have elevated their own social status.

But we do tend to equate a person’s value with the things they own or the amount of money they have. If a person has a bigger house, better car, or money for elaborate vacations every year, we think they’re more important or special than us. They mean more because they’re “worth” more. However, our value is not found in things but in our salvation and in Christ. This material, physical, tangible world will not remain forever, and sometimes we must remind ourselves not to make idols of the things we may possess.

(19) “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
(20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

~Matthew 6:19-20, KJV

Although shopping in itself is not an evil thing and neither is money, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Instead of finding our value in the things we can’t take with us to Heaven, we must remember that to God we are all worth saving in spite of what we may or may not have. The poor man is as special and valuable to God as the rich man. Our home is in Heaven and our worth is in Christ. So, while all the things we may have are okay and are often gifts from God, they are not what determines our value in life.

I love clothes and shoes and hats like many girls, but I know that whether I’m wearing that expensive, pretty, new dress that is all the rave or not, my worth does not change to God. I know that we should all instead strive to remind ourselves this time of year to remember what’s truly important and why we’re celebrating this season. We celebrate Christmas not for the things we can buy but to commemorate the birth of the One who thought we were worth saving. Jesus came to save the poor, the lost, the broken, the lonely, the hurting. He is our treasure, and Heaven is our goal.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

~Colossians 3:2 (KJV)