Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I have some absolutely wonderful memories of growing up and spending Christmas with my parents and my siblings. Mom and Dad always went all out, putting up so many Christmas decorations that it took days to complete. She would cook and bake and shop, and then all of us would make cookies together.
We had a lot of traditions, but the best one we had was on Christmas morning. Daddy always got up first, going downstairs to get his coffee and turning on the tree lights. Mom would follow close behind, cautioning us all the while to stay upstairs until everything was ready. We had one of those huge 8mm cameras with the light that singed the hair off your eyebrows when it was filming, so we’d always be temporarily blinded upon first entering the living room. It was so grand!
And then there it would be! A huge Christmas tree, Bing Crosby singing “Blue Christmas” in the background, and so many beautifully wrapped presents. We’d start with the stockings, then we’d exchange gifts from each other, then we’d unwrap all of the “Santa” gifts.
All of these memories are warm and wonderful. Then once I had children of my own, I tried to foster the same sorts of traditions. My boys and I would bake cookies, and then we’d decorate and decorate and decorate! Everyone looked forward to Christmas morning, and then we’d stay in our pajamas all day, enjoying our gifts, eating, and watching “A Christmas Story” over and over again.
Yes, Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, but I must admit it had always been my favorite time for all the wrong reasons, even though I thought they were the right ones. As a Christian, I knew that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I know the real meaning of Christmas, but even in that I had lost track of why I celebrated. I lost sight of where the meaning was, not so much in whom the meaning existed.
Jeff and I moved away from both of our families once we were married almost 29 years ago. So, having Christmas at our childhood home had become difficult. Then, a few years ago while my boys were serving in the Army and the Marines, both of them were in Afghanistan at the same time during Christmas, so neither of them were going to be home.
All of a sudden, Christmas lost all joy for me. I was empty, and I didn’t want to celebrate at all. My boys were gone, I was 2000 miles from my parents and my brother and sister and their families. What was the point?
Right there and then I decided that I wouldn’t put up any decorations, and as a matter of fact, I wanted Jeff to take me somewhere so I didn’t have to be home at all. Maybe somewhere tropical…I didn’t care, as long as it wasn’t there in my house without my boys and my traditions.
However, we have two dogs, one of which is a Great Dane and the size of a small horse, so traveling with them would be too difficult. Reluctantly, I acquiesced that staying home was best.
A few days after Thanksgiving that year, a time when I was usually elbow deep in Christmas decorations and shopping, I simply couldn’t get a certain passage of Scripture out of my mind. You see, I didn’t think I was being belligerent or unreasonable. Actually, I felt I was being very reasonable. God was about to remind me that I was certainly not.
The passage that kept coming to mind was from 1 Peter 1:3-5,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Finally I sat down one day and really began to look at these verses, trying to understand why God kept bringing me back to them. Eventually, I saw Christmas in them, and I was so ashamed of where I had relegated this blessed time of year.
These verses in 1 Peter really do have the real meaning of Christmas contained within them, and even though we might think we have our eyes on the prize, so to speak, any of us can very quickly lose sight of the gift we celebrate even as we understand the Savior who gave us this gift.
I mean, think about the disciples. Even they lost sight of the prize, and the Prize was standing right in front of them!
In Luke 10 the apostle describes when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to go out and preach the Good News. However, once they returned, they exclaimed in verse 17,
Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!
Jesus quickly re-focused them by saying in verses 18-20,
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
The birth of Jesus Christ facilitated for us the most amazing gift we will ever be given, and that is eternity! That was the first point of my “re-focusing”: It’s not about the gifts we give and receive to commemorate His birth; it’s about the truly supernatural gift we’ve been given which was facilitated by His birth. Our focus, my focus, should be on the gift of being born again.
In Ephesians 1:11,
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
Not only have I been given the gift of being born again, but in that gift I have received an inheritance that is imperishable and glorious. I have been promised the inheritance of fellow heirs with Christ. Romans 8:16-17 promises,
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
That’s an inheritance worth focusing on!
Then finally, those verses in 1 Peter reminded me of what “home” really is and how I had made it about something completely temporal instead of the eternal one promised to me in Christ Jesus.
There is a beautiful song called “Temporary Home,” by Carrie Underwood. The chorus of that songs says,
This is my temporary home, it’s not where I belong
Windows and rooms that I’m passing through
This is just a stop on the way to where I’m going
I’m not afraid because I know
This is my temporary home.
“Home” is so important to us; it’s always been so important to me. Why do you think that is? Why do we put so much emphasis on going home or being home or having a home?
It’s because home is our identity. It’s our comfort. It’s who we are and where we know we always belong.
When I became distressed and somewhat depressed at the thought of having no one home for Christmas or in the thought of not going home for Christmas, I lost sight of where my home really is. If I centered my thoughts on my real home, if I lived every day in light of where I really belong, then Christmas and any other time of year for that matter would only bring me another opportunity to celebrate that.
As believers, this world really is just our temporary home. It’s not perfect, though God has graciously given us some beautiful things while here. However, it’s not the end. It’s not even the beginning. This home is temporary.
Jesus said in John 14:2,
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
This earth is not my home. This is the place where I am on the way to where I am going. Why would any of us place our hopes and our dreams and our happiness on something that will pass away? This is temporary!
How could I not celebrate that Christmas, regardless of who was there or not there, knowing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, was born of a virgin, died a horrible death and then was raised on the third day so that I would have an eternal home?! How can we focus on anything above that?
I admonish each of you, then, just as God has admonished me:
- Center your hearts on the greatest gift of all time, the gift of being born again,
- Look to the inheritance that is yours in eternity because of this gift, and
- Live each day, most especially these days, looking toward and living in the knowledge of our eternal home—heaven.
And put up your decorations, for heaven’s sake!