What does your ideal Christmas look like, and, more importantly, is it?
We all have our ideas of what the perfect Christmas looks like, and usually this time of year, we strive to get as close to that ideal as possible. We clean the house, board our flights, schedule time, buy and wrap gifts, decorate, prepare food, turn on music, watch classic movies, and we hope that nothing messes up our Christmas.
But what are we really hoping for?
Step back for a moment and consider for yourself: What images come to mind as you imagine the Christmas you’d want? When I do this, I have to admit, the images in my mind look a lot like holiday specials and advertisements. If the same is true for you, we have to ask, where did we get the idea this ideal is actually, well, ideal?
James K.A. Smith writes that “cultural liturgies” exist all around us, and these liturgies shape and habituate us “to long for what they promise.”
For example, this time of year, I find myself longing for a big and beautiful home, attractive and happy guests, impeccably wrapped presents under a gorgeous tree, and a table filled with a perfectly prepared banquet. This is revealing because when I take a little bit longer to consider what my favorite times and most fulfilling moments in life have been, none of them looked like this. For one, where’s Jesus? Is it possible “cultural liturgies” have me chasing images at Christmas that aren’t really my own, and that aren’t really even about the real Christmas?
The long-term solution to counter the vortex-pull of cultural liturgies is to replace them with truly Christian ones, and not just on Sundays but in our day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year lives.
But what about the short-term? What about right now and in the next few weeks?
Here’s an idea I think can help jolt us awake this Christmas to truly engage with the incarnation and birth of the Son of God.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that when we do something for the “least of these,” we do it for Him.
So, if we want this Christmas to actually center around Jesus, what if we took Him at His word? What if we looked for Jesus in the least and the lowly around us over the next few weeks?
- Your socially awkward neighbor who only talks about himself.
- Your father who spends all day in front of the TV.
- The widow who lives around the corner.
- The homeless veteran (or maybe the addict pretending to be a homeless veteran) holding a “will work for food” sign.
- The crying baby on the plane.
- The exhausted mother who can’t get the baby to settle down.
- The short-tempered cashier.
- The guy driving too slow in front of you.
- The single person sitting in front of you at church.
- The aunt who always criticizes and corrects your cooking.
Instead of pursuing, striving, and carefully guarding the culturally-constructed “ideal Christmas,” what if we were to welcome Jesus into our lives this Christmas?
Jesus, at the end of my days, I want to find that I have invited You into my home, fed You, visited You, and served You well. Let me be like Mary and Joseph who said yes to you instead of their ideas of what would have been ideal. Help me to trust that You truly are in the least of these and I can spend Christmas with You.
What other ideas do you have of how you can seek out Jesus this Christmas?
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; A Christ-like Christmas