What does Christmas mean to you? When you see the sights, hear the sounds, and encounter the smells of the season, what memories come to mind?
No doubt it’s different for everyone. One of the very first Christmases I can remember is was actually Christmas Eve at my Aunt and Uncle’s house and hearing sleigh bells approaching the door with Santa Clause coming in shortly. IT SCARED ME TO DEATH! I wanted nothing to do with the man. I’m not sure how many years that lasted, but I remember that one!
Speaking of Santa… I don’t know how it was in your house, but Santa always seemed to come early. Growing up, I remember days before Christmas there being presents under the tree to various people in the family FROM SANTA… and oddly enough… Santa’s handwriting was awfully close… if not identical to my mother’s handwriting. (Not trying to say anything… just presenting the facts!)
A couple of the other memories I have come from a more selfish side. Without fail, every year when the presents went under the tree a couple things would happen. The first thing to happen was a count-off. My mother wouldn’t dare have a different number of gifts under the tree for each of us. That’s simply is fair. Growing up, it was all about quantity and not quality. That obviously changed as we got older.
The second thing that would happen would be the “investigation.” That’s right… everything from shaking to feeling out the weight; it was always fun trying to figure out what was inside. AND as a side note – Heavier doesn’t equal better. I can’t tell you how many times my brothers and I were beyond excited about a heavy box ONLY to find out on Christmas morning that it was a box of socks and underwear!
Perhaps one of my favorite memories of Christmas was Christmas morning itself. There was something magical about Christmas morning. The lights on the tree always shown brighter that morning and the presents under the tree always seemed to reveal a more blinding glow! Yes, the scene Christmas morning was magical and we could wait to dive in.
One of the joys of having children is that as parents you get to relive a lot of those moments. My kids have enjoyed that same magic on Christmas morning. In fact last year, they couldn’t contain their excitement as we caught them, red-handed, opening one of their Disney princesses. I was a little upset, but I knew they were waiting for this moment for a long time. At that age hours seem like days leading up to Christmas Morning.
Their eyes grew bigger and bigger as they awaited the right time to begin opening the gifts. Now, as a parent who takes small pride in his wrapping efforts, I knew to get a couple good pictures at the start because in about 20 minutes time, the living room would be utterly destroyed with ribbons, bows, boxes, wrapping, and tissue paper. You see, there’s no way my kids (myself included) would have left those presents alone. There’s too much wonder and mystery inside. We knew there was something better beyond the glow of the wrapping paper.
Sadly, many do not get beyond the glamor of the season. While there’s nothing wrong with lights, bows, presents, etc. (believe me because one of the other joys I experience during the Christmas season is sitting at home on the couch with nothing by the tree and garland lights on. There’s great peace found in those moments), many of those items distract from what matters most. Many won’t get beyond the lights, beyond the presents, or beyond the “red cups” AND they will miss out on THE real wonder and majesty of THE gift of Christmas.
You see, for many, Christmas has become just another holiday – another reason for family, friends, and get-togethers. Again, please don’t misunderstand. I love those things, but the celebration of Christmas is all BUT routine BECAUSE what God did that Bethlehem night forever changed the course of human history.
Checkout these words from the Traditional Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem.
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light,
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
O morning stars, together proclaim thy holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King, and peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary, And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
My favorite line from that traditional carol says, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hope and fears of all the years are met in the Thee tonight.”
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that the coming light would be Immanuel, God Himself. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Matthew confirmed the Messiah’s birth and even quoted the prophet’s words within the opening chapter of his gospel.
 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” – Matthew 1:22-23.
My prayer for all us this Christmas season – as the wonder of Christmas Morning approaches at the dawn of each new day – my prayer is that you would be awestruck – not by the sights and sounds and beauty of the wrapping paper, but rather by the wonder that is Jesus!
In the opening of John’s Gospel, He writes in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The wonder of the Christmas Season is that God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to live us – to be with us – and to offer us grace upon grace!
The Grace of Jesus Christ, the Messiah is THE Gift. And it’s the most precious gift you could ever receive!