By David Hegg
(Note: Yes, I’ve run this column before but, due to popular demand, here it is again, updated just a bit!)
It’s here! While we’ve been treated to advertisements, store promotions, and an occasional seasonal song since before Halloween, there is no doubt that the Christmas season has finally landed. Now the goal is not to be crushed by its weight.
You know what I mean. We start off with great hopes and expectations built on the best memories of bygone years. But too often by the time we’re putting the boxes and used wrapping in the trash we’re suffering from a mix of disappointment and exhaustion. So, how about we do things differently this year?
Here are four suggestions. Feel free to use them or lose them, as best fits your need.
First, be responsible. By this I mean financially responsible. Don’t overspend. Don’t buy things just to buy things. Don’t think that expensive presents can take the place of real love and relationship. Take your credit card statement out, tape it to your bathroom mirror, and think about how discouraging debt is. Don’t spend more than you can afford. I can guarantee, if you are financially responsible, you’ll be happy when the January statement comes.
Second, be respectful. Not everyone celebrates the same way, and some don’t celebrate Christmas at all. Don’t be the guy who snaps if someone says “Happy Holidays.” While Christmas is all about Christ, and I proudly infuse Christ into all of my seasonal conversations and celebrations, I also work for Jesus Christ and know that he isn’t pleased when I act like a jerk and dress somebody down for saying “holiday.” On the other hand, you who don’t want the season to be about God’s plan of redemption extended to mankind in His Son Jesus, give room and respect to those of us who do. And, BTW, we’ll let you enjoy our traditional music and church services, no questions asked.
Third, be mature. Every year nerves get frazzled as the freeways and stores and schools and workplaces and kitchens get more and more busy. As the day approaches, parking spaces become prime real estate and fathers gain media attention by fighting over the latest “got to have” toy. C’mon people!
How ironic is it that a season meant to remind us of God’s great love often brings frustration, anger, and words that we will severely regret. Plan on taking some extra time to get there. Let someone go first. Open the door for a package-laden stranger, and just generally be the one smiling even if the turkey or roast or gravy or whatever takes longer to cook, or maybe doesn’t turn out well. Be nice, be useful, and everyone will wonder what’s gotten into you, but you’ll enjoy the days much more, and so will those around you.
Lastly, be joyful. Regardless of your thoughts on Christmas, the fact is most people in our country do find the season to be a time of friendship, human warmth, beautiful music and lights, and most of all, unhurried moments with those we love. The church especially tries to make the season one that calls us away from the brokenness of this world, and the ridiculous pace of life in it, to reflect on the amazing love of almighty God centered in his promise that was fulfilled in the pastures outside Bethlehem so long ago.
When God brought our world into being it was a perfect reflection of his own goodness. But, through Adam’s rebellious act, the virus of sin found its way into the operating system of creation, including the hearts and minds of mankind. At that point, God could have walked away and left the world to go on spinning out of control. But, because of his great love, he determined that sin wouldn’t win the day. God set about to launch a royal rescue plan by which the sentence our sin deserved in the court of heaven could be paid by another, and our brokenness made whole. Christmas is a celebration that the promised rescue has arrived in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s vow together to do so in a way that doesn’t undermine the very fabric of the season. Let’s be responsible financially, respectful relationally, mature in our interaction, and joyful in our reflection. And may we all look back as the New Year dawns and recognize that we truly have had a very, very Merry Christmas!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.