Does Christmas feel different this year? Maybe it’s just me, but I remember Christmas feeling...not like this. It was more festive, and cheery. More merry and bright. It still feels like Christmas at home, but outside? Around town? It feels suppressed, like more of a memory that I will later tell my future kids about. Like something I would refer to as “The good ol’ days” or something.
I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way, though. And I don’t think it’s because it’s 2020.
I think all of us believe at some level, Christmas feels different. We feel it when we drive around and remember how there used to be more Christmas lights up and around town. We begin to think about it when there are less and less movies or songs that really capture that “Christmas Spirit.”
Some people are happy about it, but only because they didn’t like that I played Christmas music right after Halloween.
One way or another, I think at some level all of us know that Christmas is not the same. What was beautiful about Christmas is that it brought hope. The kind of calm and joy that, no matter how hard the year was, we could look forward to at the end of the year.
So why does Christmas feel so different in comparison to years past? I think it’s because, in America, we have removed “Christ” from Christmas.
What Makes Christmas Powerful?
As a culture, Jesus has been suppressed as the reason for the season. But contrary to what you might be thinking, how to reclaim the “Christmas Spirit” is not through more nativity scenes and Christmas pageants. In fact, what made Christmas powerful, and good news to all, is not as much about Jesus’ birth as you may think. ( Hear me out, don’t throw your stones just yet! )
Despite what many of us have been raised to believe, Christmas (and our traditions for Christmas) have a mixed and foggy history: While the first recorded Christmas among Christians was in 354 AD, it wasn’t widely celebrated, especially not as we know it today. There used to be a mixture of holidays going in this pot that we call December 25th, including the Yule festival which was celebrated by the Norse in the first century AD, to the Roman holiday Saturnalia in the first century BC.
Regardless of its origins, eventually, Christmas evolved to be celebrated as celebrating the birth of Jesus. ( And it’s okay that it happened this way. ) The Christmas that we know and love today really took shape in the 1800’s. So what made the Christmas that we know so powerful?
Take a look at some of our most treasured books, movies, and stories about Christmas, what message do they tell? Using The Christmas Carol (1843) as an example, they are about a selfish protagonist who is moved in their heart to realize that life is about loving others and being selfless. And that love is expressed through generosity.
Even the mascot of Christmas, jolly old St. Nick, is an example of what makes Christmas powerful. Using the wealth of his parents, after they had passed, to give generously to others. Giving gifts and food to children and the less fortunate in secret, liberating children from prostitution by secretly donating gold to their parents to buy their children out of slavery, and other extraordinary acts of generosity.
Christmas Is About Generosity
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. But what makes Christmas powerful is when the people of God live out the generosity of Jesus. Our mission is to prepare the world for when Jesus returns. How we prepare this world is by sharing the generous love of Jesus, who gave up His life so that ours could be saved.
James 2:15-17 (NIV) says.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
I once heard a Pastor put it this way,
Many of us celebrate Christmas that way, excluded. Rather, if we want to truly put Christ back in Christmas, we should change the way we think about celebrating the birth of Jesus. What makes Christmas powerful is when the people of God live out the generosity of Jesus.
Put Christ Back Into Christmas
Jesus came, died, and rose again, so that His followers would make disciples by serving and loving others the way He loved us. The Spirit of God was given to us to help us, to produce in us the characteristics and fruits that empower us to be generous to others, to be good news to all.
If you TRULY want the Christmas spirit to come back, it requires you to put Christ back into Christmas. But that is not by having bigger and better “Christmas services.” It’s not by having more pageants, or more nativity scenes, or anything like that. Christmas will be most powerful when you live out the generosity of Jesus.
The more that we make Christmas about being extraordinarily generous, giving and sharing with others around, God’s Spirit will work through that to create a ripple effect which will reverberate across America. So this Christmas, be generous. Invite your neighbors over for dinner, buy presents for not just your family, but your neighbors. Build a relationship with those who are in need, make them part of your family.
Be generous this Christmas, and next Christmas, and the Christmas after that, and the Christmas after that. Continue to be generous, and extra generous during Christmas. Because that is what it truly means to put Christ back into Christmas. Celebrating the birth of Jesus by living how He lived. By loving this world the way He prayed we would.
Have a blessed and Merry Christmas,