The Gospel is at the heart of Christmas. The angel even proclaimed to the shepherd that this Good News of Great Joy was for All People. And there are numerous opportunities to make Jesus the “reason for the season.” Christmas Eve services, giving to the needy, Christmas carols… all great ways to “put Christ back in Christmas.” But, I have to admit, it is sometimes too easy to even do the good, Christian things of Christmas and still miss the Good News of Christmas. So here are three simple, but not easy steps I am taking this year to make sure that the Gospel, the Good News, is at the heart of my Christmas celebration this year.
3 Simple (But Not Easy) Steps to a Gospel-Centered Christmas:
- Give a Great Gift- Give generously to friends and family. Don’t leave any doubt as to your love for those in your life. Give such great gifts, personal and thoughtful, that it is obvious that you love those around you. GIVE LOVE. And give even more generously to your enemies. The Good News of the Gospel is wrapped up in the fact that Jesus made enemies of God into the children of God. Romans 5 makes it clear we were weak, sinners, and enemies of God. And yet through Jesus, we have received reconciliation through His forgiveness. GIVE FORGIVENESS.
- Be Awed by the “Ordinary” Graces of God – The angels were not the most amazing beings that burst onto the scene that blessed night. They caused fear for the shepherds, but the true worship and awe came through the presence of a very “ordinary” looking child, in a very “ordinary” manger, wrapped in very “ordinary” cloths, in a very “ordinary” town. But, of course, He is anything but ordinary. The Gospel challenge this year is to be awed again by the God of the ordinary. The One Who is “with us” in the ordinary, mundane tasks of every day. He condescended to us… the extra-ordinary taking on the appearance of the ordinary, the fullness of the Godhead taking on the form of a servant… and He remains with us every day by His Spirit, produces extra-ordinary fruit through our ordinary lives. As G.K. Chesteron said,”When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” Don’t get so distracted by the twinkling lights and dressed up people and trees that you forget that every tree is held into existence by the baby in the manger and every light pales in comparison to the Light of the world. Marvel in the ordinary and WORSHIP the extra-ordinary King.
- Stop telling everyone to be “good,” and Stop trying so hard to be “good” – “You better be good for goodness sake.” “You better watch out… I’m telling you why.” “Naughty or Nice.” But seriously, expectations abound at Christmas… from family, friends, and from ourselves. We can find ourselves busy, hurried, and even haggard at times as we seek the “perfect” gift, the “perfect” meal, the “perfect” Christmas. This is incredibly far from the purpose of Christmas and light years from the Good News that the angels proclaimed that holy night. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) The peace of the presence of Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us is for those with whom God is pleased. And there is good news in that exclamation from the heavenly hosts… God can be pleased with us! But the thing about God is that He gets to decide what pleases Him. He is God after all. Colossians 1:10 exhorts us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” And the good news keeps coming! In His grace and love, He doesn’t leave us to guess what pleases Him. We are not left stumbling in the darkness, hoping we figure out the right formula of goodness that will please God. Hebrews 11:6 makes it clear that FAITH pleases God. That the God Who drew near to us, now wants us to draw near by faith. BELIEVE that He exists and BELIEVE that He rewards those who seek Him. It will not be your perfection that pleases God. It will be faith in the perfect One that will please God.My hope this Christmas is that the Gospel will free all of us from the need for perfection in our own efforts. May we seek, by faith, the Perfect One Himself and trust Him to make us (and our Christmas) into all He desired for us.
The Gospel is yours to embrace this Christmas… by FAITH, through WORSHIP because of grace, and through GIVING great gifts because the greatest gift has been given unto us. Merry Christmas! Good News of Great Joy is yours!