An Old Fashioned Christmas 1222

For many December means an uptick of events on our calendars, commitments, and number of items on one’s to do list. It is also a season filled with lots of joy, fellowship, and participating in beloved holiday traditions. However, this holiday season may find you facing a challenge such as family strife, a broken relationship, the death of loved one, or any one of a myriad of difficulties. You may not be feeling so merry and bright, or are lacking the oomph for tackling the demands on time, energy, and resources that comes with the season. If that describes you or if you are just ready to do something different this season, you might be ready for an old fashioned Christmas. In December of 2020, I was in place of needing a different approach to the holiday season. It started on an early chilly morning during my quiet time with the LORD. Usually this time is very peaceful and I enjoy praying, quietly listening for His sweet soft voice, reading, and mediating on scriptures. However on that chilly December morning, I was having trouble focusing for I was thinking how dreary the holiday season seemed. My downcast spirit was probably related to both my husband and myself recently becoming unemployed, financial concerns, health challenges of family members, and the heaviness of the world around us related to the prominence of COVID and social unrest. As I was reflecting on Psalm 62:8 “Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge”, I began sharing all of these concerns, along with my struggles of trying to get into the holiday spirit. It was then the idea of making the theme for the holiday season an old fashioned Christmas took hold. Now, when I say old fashioned Christmas, I am not referring to decorating with Victorian era inspired ornaments and surprising guests with Christmas crackers complete with the explosive pop when pulling the festive table decoration open. Nor is it traveling to Seneca Falls, New York (a.k.a. “The Real Bedford Falls”) for the annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” festival. Neither does it mean putting up a Christmas tree sparkling with bubble lights and tinsel icicles or going with the church youth group for caroling, hot chocolate and sugar cookies with red and green icing. Instead, the old fashion Christmas I’m thinking of predates any of these holiday traditions by approximately 2,000 years. Yes, the one beautifully described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Reading the beloved passages of Jesus’s birth in these two New Testament books helps us recognize how the original Christmas story provides a solid foundation for a joyous holiday season. One reason is whether our holiday plans are very low-key and sedate or chock full of family, fun, and great food, there is nothing we can add to or take away from the profound reason for celebrating this season. Christmas festivities can be carried out thousands of different ways and may vary from one year to the next. Still, the message in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” is unchanged from when it was first written and remains the truth forever. Simply focusing on Jesus’s birth as the central explanation for December 25 being such a special day can simplify all holiday preparations. What if the shopping, meal preparation, and planning holiday events became secondary activities to celebrating the birth of the One who is the: “light of the world” (John 8:12); “pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2); “good shepherd (John 10:14) and “resurrection and the life (John 11:25)? In doing so, we may find stressors associated with the season are replaced with overwhelming feelings of hope, peace, love and joy. Having an old fashioned Christmas where the focus is on Jesus’s birth and not on all of the extraneous holiday events may be the remedy to feeling overwhelmed during the season. A cause for feeling rushed and overwhelmed might be because of feeling pressured to get a lot done in a short period of time. In contrast, consider the time line for the birth of Jesus. Although church Christmas pageants and Nativity scenes suggest the events of the first Christmas occurred in a condensed period of time, actually the time span is quite expanded. In fact, the Christmas story started centuries before Jesus’s birth as evidenced by Old Testament prophecies such as the one recorded in Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” Even cherished details of His birth, including the shepherds’ visit to the manger and the Three Wise Men’s arrival to pay homage to the King of Kings, are at minimum days apart. Additionally, the impact related to His birth is recorded throughout the New Testament and is still evident to us thousands of years later. Consideration of the expansiveness of the timeline of the event that continues to change everything can be the encouragement for us to slow down during this season and take more time to “Be still and know I am God” (Psalms 46:10). So whether we are eagerly embracing this holiday season or in a place where circumstances are diminishing our holiday spirit, we all can benefit from finding ways to enjoy an old fashioned Christmas where the emphasis is on Jesus. Although it is perfectly fine to enjoy all of the trappings that come with the season, whether that is gift giving, decorating the Christmas tree, or the parties, it is important none of the seasonal festivities ever usurp what this season is really all about. For at the crux is the celebration of the One whose birth heralded in the LORD’s new covenant with us and is the final remedy for sin.