Every year at Christmas time, I encounter an emotional and psychological dilemma. The question that runs through my head is this: how much should I enjoy Christmas time? For me, since childhood, it really has been “the most wonderful time of the year.” I love everything about it. I love the movies and shows. The songs, both secular and sacred. I love the Christmas worship service and the Bible readings. I love the gatherings with friends and family. I love seeing the decorations everywhere. I love decorating the house and tree. I love opening the boxes of decorations and ornaments, as each ornament brings me back to memories from different times and seasons of my life. I love the baked goods. I love giving presents, and I really love getting presents. So, my dilemma is always this: have I made an idol of Christmas (and the commercialism that goes with it), or I am just enjoying the cultural and spiritual aspects of an amazing festival that God has given me to enjoy?
On Sunday, I preached the first Advent sermon at Waypoint of this season. I, like many others, did not grow up fully celebrating Advent before Christmas, and the thrust of my sermon was that reflecting on Advent (the return of Christ) during the Christmas season has really helped me with my tension of how much to enjoy the good things of life (like Christmas in America), when I know that the world is still broken and sinful and full of suffering. After the sermon, my youngest son was worried that I might have painted the picture that it’s a bad thing to enjoy many of the festivities of the Christmas season. Maybe my sermon really reflected some of the tension I often feel.
I believe the theme of Advent and Christmas can be summed up in this phrase:
God promised he would come to bring salvation to His people. At just the right time He came, and He is coming again to make all things right and new.
And because of this, we have everything to celebrate!
Every year on December 1, our family will gather to reflect and sing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” while watching this powerful video showing how God fulfilled his promise to save his people. And then we decorate BIG TIME!. If you drive down Kettering Drive in Durham, you can really see how big we decorate and celebrate. We live in the Advent/Christmas tension; The kingdom is here, but not fully here yet. We reflect, we love and serve, and we decorate and go all out; we do this because of Jesus, in whom we have everything to celebrate.