Christmas and Advent are my favorite times of the year. I’m so glad this season lasts for a whole month and not just one day.
Everything about this season reminds us of Christ. It seems like no matter where you go, His name is being sung on the radio, or seen in the greeting cards, or even just spoken out loud from the store clerk with a simple, “Merry Christmas!”
Growing up in South Asia, I remember how Christmas was not celebrated as overtly by anyone. It hardly existed. Even the churches there simply had a regular church service the week of December 25. There were no Christmas songs or decorations or anything like that.
During this season, my family would go out and cut down a scraggly looking bush to serve as a Christmas tree in our house (it didn’t look anything like a fir tree). People thought we were funny. My sister and I would make paper chains and different homemade decorations to put around the house. When people would see us doing these things, they thought we were kind of strange, but it also made them curious.
There was one Christmas day where I remember traveling with my father and seeing this man out plowing his field. My father stopped the vehicle and went to talk to him. He asked him, “Do you know what today is?” This poor farmer was so confused wondering why this stranger didn’t know the day of the week and had stopped his work just to figure it out. My father asked him if he knew that it was Christmas. “What’s a Christmas?” was this man’s reply. He had never heard of it before.
That was reality not too long ago. But over the past few years, things began to change. If you go to South Asia today, you will now see paper Christmas stars all over the place throughout the month of December (they put up stars instead of twinkly lights like what we have).
Now, you might be thinking, What’s the big deal? So there is a star, or some lights, or a decorated fir tree. That’s not what Christmas is about. And you’re right. So then what’s so special about Christmas being celebrated with these things?
Even though Christmas can sometimes seem like it’s been turned into a marketing tool for shop owners and salesman, I would rather have all that—sparkling lights, caroling, decorations, etc.—with Christ’s name being somewhere in the mix, rather than having nothing that points to this being a special day. That is how I remember growing up; everywhere we went, there was nothing that remotely reminded us of Christ during the Christmas season. Now, I’m so excited because at least Christ’s name is being proclaimed in the midst of all the holiday busyness.
Proclaiming the Story of Christ
There are holidays for all sorts of things out there that have nothing to do with Jesus. But for us as believers, Advent, Christmas and Easter are some of the major seasons where we are given the opportunity to recapture the narrative of what the Lord has done for us over and over and over again.
In the Gospel of Mark, we are told that it was John the Baptist’s responsibility to prepare the way for the Messiah (see Mark 1:1–5). He had one purpose in life—to be the forerunner of Jesus.
At that time in history, the Jewish people were waiting in anticipation for the Messiah to come. They had been waiting since the time Adam and Eve had been removed from the garden. By faith, they held on with steadfast hope that their Savior was coming. They longed for this, they waited, they looked at the prophecies, they held on with this heartbreaking anticipation that He would come. And finally, in a way that no one ever expected, He came as a baby born in a lowly manger.
For us as believers, we exist with one hand back in history hanging on to the life, death and resurrection of Christ that gives us a future and a hope. With the other hand, we are reaching forward to the second coming of Christ with the same kind of anticipation the Jewish people experienced. Advent is both a reflection that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) as well as an eager anticipation that Christ is coming again.
We have the privilege this month to be surrounded by so many reminders of the Christ who gives us hope. These reminders also serve as tools for us to tell others about the reason for the hope we have. We get to point to a star, or to the twinkly lights on so many houses, and say, “Do you know what that star and those lights represent? They remind us of the wise men who followed the star until they came to the Messiah.”
There are so many questions like this we can ask. For example, “Do you know what the nativity stands for?” I guarantee you there are people who see a nativity, and they have no idea why a bunch of people and animals are hanging out in a barn. This is our opportunity to tell them!
Or we can say, “Do you know why we have Christmas trees? It’s believed that Martin Luther happened to be walking through a forest one day when he looked up and was in awe of the stars glittering through the branches. He decided to take one of the pine trees home and decorate it with candles so as to remind his family of the starry sky the night Jesus was born.”
Another question could be, “Do you know what these songs, ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Silent Night,’ are talking about?” You could go on and on. Just do a quick search on Google to find out the history behind so many of our Christmas songs and traditions. Take “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as an example. The belief is that this song is actually full of hidden meanings, which were written by Christians undergoing persecution, and that they used to sing this song to remind themselves of their faith. It was pretty much their catechism hidden in a song.
All these things point to Christ.
As you go about your Christmas celebrations this year and finish up all the last-minute shopping in your local malls, take time to pause and reflect on what the decorations around you are all about. Look at the Christmas lights, and remember the angels’ declaration of peace to all mankind. Spend time in front of the nativity, and remember God’s faithfulness to send His only Son so that we might be saved. Listen closely to the Christmas carols, and use them as an opportunity to tell those around you what they really mean.
Let this be our prayer this year: Lord, please help me to be aware of You this season in the midst of the chaos and busyness and excitement. Help me to recognize that all these things tell Your story, and help me to use them to reflect You in the clearest way possible to those around me.
Jesus is coming back. This Advent, may you be filled with the wonder of that incredible promise once again.
Click here for a free online Advent calendar and daily devotionals.
Click here, to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.