A few days ago J and I watched The Polar Express. I remember really enjoying it the first time I watched it several years ago. I thought it was a sweet film with a nice message.
This time I found myself frustrated.
The message of the film is essentially that if you just believe you can keep the magic of the spirit of Christmas alive for yourself. But believe in what? That Santa is real? All the adults who watch this film know the truth there. And what exactly is the spirit of Christmas?
The truth is that Christmas is not about keeping the dream of Santa alive. It’s not about ‘the spirit of Christmas’. It’s not even about giving and family time, though we do enjoy doing this at Christmas time.
Christmas is about celebrating the greatest gift this world has ever received. We share the love by giving each other gifts, but it’s not even really about this. God has given us the amazing gift of his son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate among us, Emmanuel. Jesus humbled himself from his place as creator and ruler of everything to become a helpless, dependent baby.
But it’s not the fact that Jesus, God himself, was born into this world that makes him the world’s greatest gift. It’s what he did with his life that is significant. He gave it up on behalf of sinners so that we would be forgiven. It is because of what happened at Easter that makes Christmas important.
On Sunday we heard a friend preach for the first time (which was exciting to be at) and he reminded us to remember the most important thing at Christmas time. I felt particularly rebuked when he asked “would you feel like the day was less stressful if you took Jesus out of Christmas day?” It certainly would make getting to things on time and having time to open presents with family easier if we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning.
I realised that Jesus isn’t often my focus at Christmas time. Jesus gets about an hour of my day on Christmas day while I’m at church, and the rest of the day is about family and presents and food.
As I was catching up with a good friend today we talked about this and both committed to putting Christ back into the centre of Christmas. Here is one practical way we thought of for doing this: every present I open, every good bite of food I eat I want to remember that the gift of Jesus is even greater and thank God for him. Hopefully this will help me to be more mindful of why we really celebrate Christmas.
I’m interested to hear how others keep Christ at the centre of Christmas. What do you do?