I’ve been working with a wonderful illustrator in Mumbai, India. As a sidebar, my newest book, Hezekiah Loves Music: Learning Rhythms The Food Way, will be available for purchase the first of the year. It’s a cute little book. Anyway, I’ve worked with Marilyn on two books now and am so excited by the collaboration. In the process of our work I’ve been blessed to have her ask me to pray for a friend who was going through a major difficulty. In our last exchange, I asked if she celebrated Christmas. Her answer is the reason I’m writing this post today: “Yeah… We do celeberate Christmas. We’re Christians .”
Her response brought me up short. How many of us TRULY associate celebrating Christmas with being Christian? I mean, many Americans participating in this holiday are decidedly NOT Christian. And many Christians just might not be exhibiting Christlike behaviors and attitudes – at least not in a way that tells the world we are eagerly anticipating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! If we are honest, it is difficult to keep Christ the focus of our celebrations in the midst of buying & wrapping gifts (or worrying because there isn’t enough money to get everything on everyone’s list) and planning the holiday feast.
So, what does it mean to say ‘yeah, I celebrate Christmas. I’m a Christian?’ And does saying it mean we should not buy gifts for our loved ones or adorn our homes with beautiful decorations? I don’t think so. The true meaning of Christmas is about the act of giving. God so loved you, me, the person you don’t want to speak to, your husband/wife even though he/she gets on your last nerve, the homeless person, the President and King – God so loved THE WORLD that God GAVE the most precious gift there has or ever will be. God exhibited God’s love, even for haters (that would be you and me) and GAVE. So, at Christmas, we can proudly say ‘I celebrate Christmas; I’m a Christian’ and GIVE – presents, a word of hope, a beautiful warm home into which we invite family and friends, food, clothing & toys to those less fortunate. We can shower our children with things that make them happy. The key to it all is recognizing that God was the first giver and that God is the ultimate giver. God is an extravagant gifter: salvation, abundant life, eternal life, resources to meet our needs and help others. We have to contextualize our giving, especially at this time. We give because God gave. Our act of giving is merely a shadow of the way God treats us. And we remember that Christmas is about Easter. The beautiful images of the Christ child are important but if he had remained a child we would have remained lost. Christ was born to DIE. So we eagerly anticipate the birth of Christ as God’s gift to us, a gift that would keep on giving to the point of death on the cruel cross. We give each other gifts in this context. And as Christians, we tell the story, through our gifts and most importantly, through our living. Yes, I celebrate Christmas. I’m a Christian.