Merry Christmas! Praying you and yours are having a fantastic day filled with faith, family, fun, and food…but is that really why we celebrate today?

Christmas is my favorite holiday. The reason has changed over the years. As a child, I loved the anticipation of what I would get, of seeing family, enjoying time with cousins, and eating until I was miserable! I loved the buildup to Christmas. Christmas trees, decorating with twinkling lights, writing and receiving cards, and picking out presents, it all seemed simpler back then.

Of course, Jesus was always there in the background…Jesus is the reason for the season. There were moments sprinkled in like the prayer before eating or a moment to read or remember the Christmas story. But was He the reason I got so excited about Christmas? Is He why I jumped up early on Christmas morning? 

The honest answer is no. It was about the presents, playing with cousins, hugs from grandparents, aunts, and uncles. That’s what was exciting about Christmas.

You may be thinking, but you were a kid, that’s how you were supposed to feel at Christmas. And you would not be wrong. So let’s look at Christmas from an adult viewpoint (mine since it’s the only one I’ve got).

I still love Christmas because I see my family and friends. And don’t forget the food; Christmas dinner is awesome (but so is Thanksgiving dinner). Who isn’t happy about holidays that give you permission to gorge yourself. 

I am more intentional about remembering to focus on the birth of Christ. I read Christmas devotionals. I make sure my Christmas cards include Jesus in some way. 

In reality, though, Christmas has become stressful. I’m not a good gift giver, I struggle to find something that everyone on my list wants and sometimes just go with gift cards all around. Then there’s the budget: how much can I spend, how much should I spend, am I spending the same amount for everyone? Plus, I’m not a fan of crowds, and shopping around Christmas is jam-packed with people who are stressed out by looking for too many things in too short a time. 

Christmas now brings sorrow to our front door. Christmas and Thanksgiving (and any other holiday or special occasion where we are surrounded by loved ones) reminds us of those no longer with us. For me that means no more trips to grandparents’ houses and empty seats that were once filled by an aunt, uncle, best friend, and Dad. There are fewer people to shop for, fewer people to write cards too, fewer people to get a hug from at Christmas. It hurts. I miss them. 

Grief and stress threaten to sap the joy out of Christmas and make it a holiday of requirement and obligation rather than one of joy and gratefulness. So this year, I’m pushing back by asking, “Why do we celebrate Christmas?”

Gifts, family, friends, fun, food. All of this loses its luster when adulthood, stress, and grief walk through the door. But what about the true reason for Christmas? The reason we began celebrating it in the first place? Jesus. 

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

Christmas used to be a holiday filled with anticipation for what would be received. Now it is time to make it a holiday filled with gratitude for Who we have received. Neither gifts nor grief can overshadow Jesus’ love for us when we lift up His light and welcome Him to His own party.

The birth of Christ was the fulfillment of every promise God made in the Old Testament and the guarantee of every promise made in the New Testament. Jesus is the guarantor of every promise He makes us today.

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”
2 Corinthians 1:20

No matter how many reasons you have to rejoice or how many reasons you have to mourn, draw close to Jesus today. Invite Him to join in the laughter or tears, feel His presence flood into your Christmas, and rest in His care. Jesus is with you. This is His promise, this is His gift: Emmanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas and may the joy of Jesus’ birth fill your hearts to overflowing.