Friends, can I make a confession?
I hope you said “yes” because here I go: the Christmas season is exhausting. And not in that feel-good exhaustion, where there’s a deliriousness joy that circles our heads after giving everything we have to a project/event. But the exhaustion that invites dread on its elbows as its presence looms in the horizon, creeping ever so closer to us.
Simply put, I don’t know if I like Christmas.
The constant headaches of people lamenting that they’re wished “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. People imploring that we need to keep “Christ” in Christmas all the while complaining that the church isn’t doing a photo-op with Santa Claus after our Christmas Eve service (true story). The complaints about the “war on Christmas”--when really, the real “war” on Christmas is consumerism: something many of us over indulge on during this season.
Just call me Scrooge whilst I “bah humbug” through most of this season. Let this season be done. Let it be Easter, already. I prefer Easter over Christmas.
But I only feel like this when I focus on the wrong things about Christmas or just the surface level of Christmas. We get so caught up about Christmas (and Christmas Eve, if you work at a church) that we often miss out on what this season truly means and we often just completely ignore Advent. Advent is an important season. Advent is the season where we wait — anticipate — the coming of Christ.
Celebrating the waiting
I guess one way to look at it is thinking about to when we were like 10. The Christmas decorations are up, especially the Christmas tree. And the wrapped presents are now making their appearance. Within us the anticipation and excitement starts building and building. We’re counting down the days to Christmas so that we can see what waits for us in those wrapped gifts. Sometimes the excitement is so great, we have a hard time sleeping (especially the night before Christmas, when it’s supposed to be all quiet throughout the house where no one — not even a mouse — dares to stir).
That sense of anticipation, that kind of waiting, is one of the aspects of the Advent season.
We know what will take place in a few weeks alters the world and our lives forever. It’s quite literally the best gift we can receive. Granted, it may not be what we wanted but it is definitely what we need. So we expectantly and prayerfully wait.
While we wait, we also prepare for the coming of Christ.
We prepare our hearts, “making room” for Jesus. We take an inventory of what’s in our heart. We let go of the things that do not need to be there, that take up unnecessary space in our lives. We take a walk in the wilderness so that all the things that we think matter but, really, don’t matter much in the Kin(g)dom of God give way to make space for Jesus’ arrival. Because, we don’t want to be the one that turns Jesus away exclaiming, “there’s simply no room for you here.”
We anticipate, wait, expect the incarnation of God--the God who took our shape and form, the God who not only came to us but became one of us.
Yes, I can be particularly grouchy over the trivial things that accompany this season. And those trivial things can get me exhausted. But when I take a moment to de-center myself from the world and take a moment to reflect, pray, and take everything in: Christmas is an imperative season for our faith journey.
We marvel and rejoice and ponder God becoming one of us.
This God that so loved the world, so loved us-- so loved you--came to earth to walk among us to eat and drink with us, to simply be with us in a way humanity never imagined before.
So yes, Christmas is important to who we are as a people. Christmas is a big deal. We can’t have Easter without Christmas. We can’t have the Resurrection without the Incarnation.
And just like how Easter doesn’t only happen once a year (because every day we celebrate a Resurrected Christ), Christmas doesn’t only happen on December 25 (because every day we follow an Incarnated Christ).
So, yes. Merry Christmas. Continue on with your beloved traditions like finding creative ways (or recycling old ones) for the adventure that is Elf on the Shelf. Get carried away in the hustle and bustle that this season brings. But, let’s not forget why we celebrate Christmas.
We celebrate the deep and unfathomable love that surrounds you and me unconditionally with each breath we take. And because we were first loved, now we love.
Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.