A few years ago, I came to a sad realization about myself: the amazing story of Christmas had become so familiar to me that it was almost as if it didn’t matter much anymore. No, I hadn’t lost my love for God and the Son He sent to redeem the world. But I had lost the sense of wonder and awe that I knew I should have had. It was disturbing. My guess is that you and your kids might share my experience of Christmas being all-too-familiar.
What brought me to this point of being almost numb to the wonder and joy of the greatest news humanity will ever experience?
I concluded that it was a combination of things.
First, I had grown up hearing the Christmas story over and over every year. Familiarity hadn’t bred contempt, but I had allowed it to bring a certain unhealthy measure of disregard. Second, there was the sum total of holiday distractions. This includes all the stuff like decorations, endless commercials, Black Friday sales, and the rush that drains both the meaning and the Christ from Christmas. Finally, there was the busyness of my own life. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve allowed myself to get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent. . . all at the cost of losing time to cultivate a proper sense of wonder and awe. And when you allow your life to be governed by urgency, Christmas just shows up, catching us almost unaware. A consumer-centered Christmas can even become a burden!
Since coming to that realization, each and every year I work to become more mindful of Christmas by taking the time to focus first on all the horror and brokenness in the world. This practice breathes amazing new life and excitement into the story of the Incarnation. By focusing on the reality of sin and brokenness that occasioned Christmas, I have become more appreciative of God’s grace and mercy shown in the gift of the Savior. In other words, pondering the bad news has allowed me to appreciate the Good News! We need. . . . desperately need the baby in the manger.
My ongoing efforts to recover Christmas in this way were fueled by a rather severe bicycle accident I had a few years ago. The accident was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. I overlooked the railroad tracks. And, I paid a steep price. Thirty-eight fractures, a punctured lung, and an inability to move myself off the street resulted in a difficult and painful ambulance ride and a lengthy recovery. I was broken by my own actions and had to be fixed. Since that day, the everyday sound of sirens that I once so easily ignored now catch my ear and attention. Since then, I utter this little prayer every time I hear a siren: “Lord, someone is in trouble. Please make things right.”
All you need to do is take five minutes to scan today’s headlines and you will be convinced that our world is horribly broken and needs to be fixed. . . a task that we are unable to accomplish on our own. Things are not right. In fact, all we do is make an even greater mess of the world. It is only when we realize how broken and desperate we really are that we realize just how meaningful Christmas really is. “Lord, we are in trouble. Please make things right” . . . and Jesus is the answer to that prayer. Reckoning with the bad news feeds our longing for and appreciating of the Good News!
If you and your kids share my Christmas struggle, why not focus your pre-Christmas thoughts on the words Sally Lloyd-Jones uses to describe Jesus in her best-selling children’s book, The Jesus Storybook Bible. She writes, “And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world his wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby son. . . the Rescuer.”