Christmas is an interesting time of year for me. It has always been a holiday filled with a lot of sentimental value, from all of the past memories of happy Christmases growing up in Illinois. Each of those was filled with good times spent with family, red cardinals on white snow which blanketed the ground without fail every season, gifts exchanged, and the wonderful love that was shared through baked foods, hugs, and simply the close presence of a family member.
I remember how excited I would get each and every Christmas morning, waking up before anyone else in the house, jumping out of bed, and running into the living room where gifts of every size, shape, and color had been laid delicately underneath the tree. I would pick up gifts, hold them, run my fingers along the edges to somehow figure the dimensions of what might possibly be underneath. I would get as close as possible to those gifts without violating them by tearing the paper open. The wait for the remaining family members in the house to wake from their slumber was pure agony for a young child.
Thankfully, I knew from a fairly young age what the true message of Christmas was. While Santa Claus and presents under the tree were acceptable myths within our home, there was always the underlying foundation of what this holiday was about. God, the same God who had formed the universe, decided to take the form of a man and came to earth as a child in a lowly manger to the most unsuspecting of parents. He lowered himself, His Spirit birthing a miracle within Mary's body, and Incarnation happened. An Incarnation for the purpose of an ultimate sacrifice that would come later. Unfortunately, however, this was never my source of excitement on Christmas morning.
Think about it. The God who created ALL THINGS, including your very being, decided to come down to YOUR level and give His life for you. Not just for all of humanity, but for you as an individual. Sometimes I just have to stop and think about that. How could He love ME that much? It is nearly unfathomable.
It isn't until now, several years later, that the idea and message of Christmas has transformed from simply being head knowledge to something much more tangible. The gifts no longer excite me. The giving, however, does. In church this morning, Francis Chan shared with us that the average amount spent on Christmas Day alone in most American households is around $820. This is just on Christmas day, with the decorations, presents, and everything else. Those out in the world living on less than $2 a day would not make that amount in an entire year. This isn't meant as a guilt trip, it's just a simple point of fact. Francis also shared with us about those Christian missionaries in India right now who are suffering for the Gospel, some being tied up to trees and tortured for days before being killed. I had never even heard about this, in my own ignorance. These are the ones living out their faith each and every day.
This clearly gives me much to think about as we enter another Christmas season. It is so easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of the holidays, rushing around from one party to the next, buying gifts for loved ones. I'm sure it will happen to me, in some degree. But can we quiet ourselves this Christmas, and reflect on the image of God becoming flesh for our sake? Can we reflect on it so much that we ask God for wisdom in how we might sacrifice some part of our comfort for the sake of those who are less fortunate? After hearing about those missionaries in India today, I immediately felt like I had to give something to them. Not out of guilt, but love. They are the true saints who are standing strong despite the fires of persecution.
Please pray for those missionaries who are suffering for the name of Jesus.