By Kristen Conley and Rachel Rim
What if this Christmas season there were no wreaths, candy canes, sledding, Christmas cards, shopping, bells, carols, choirs, ice skating, Santa or any of our most precious traditions? The question, “Would Jesus be enough?” is one of those hypothetical wonders that we all assume our answer would be, “Of course he would.” But the question itself lacks depth and somehow manages to make Jesus into a lesser option like a child receiving one Starburst when he wanted the whole pack.
I have wrestled with this tension through the years. Like many of you, I’m processing how this truth could practically drive the Christmas season. Of this I am certain: “Yes, Jesus is not only enough, but Jesus is it.”
In our home, we have a tree, lights, wreaths, candy canes; we sled, shop, wrap presents and ice skate. My husband reads an Advent book, and we enjoy snow. How do we put these delightful activities in their proper place? I know the answer isn’t to decline every party invitation and tell our children we don’t do presents, play in snow or read Christmas cards.
One practical way that Keith and I have attempted to keep our family focused on Jesus over the holidays is to have the eight of us write a note to a stranger telling this person what we believe Christmas is about. It has been a good exercise for each of us to write out the truth of Christmas in our own words. Putting pen to paper allows us to take ownership of what we really believe about Jesus’s birth and share it with others. The children put their six notes in six different envelopes each with a cash gift. We all pile into the car, drive around, pray and look for someone to give them to. We have found ourselves in Wendy’s, on a street corner or at a neighbor’s. As we go through the process of delivering our children’s six notes, we have meaningful conversations about Jesus as we drive through the beautifully lit streets. We return home and enjoy a candy cane and hot chocolate.
I hope this season, we all ponder in our hearts, as Mary did, the wonders and glories that unto us a Savior is born, and respond in worship with great joy.
The Gospel of John boldly asserts the Christmas wonder that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory” (v.14). Perhaps the commercialization of Christmas persists because generic concepts such as, “holiday cheer,” “be merry” and “spend time with family” are easier to comprehend than the John 1:14 reality of Christmas. Buying gifts for loved ones requires time and money; embracing the truth of the Word becoming flesh requires our deepest selves. At the same time, I was recently reminded through an unexpected medium how the Word becoming flesh doesn’t just require our deepest selves but actually meets our deepest longings.
A few weeks ago on the first snowfall of the year, my roommates and I spread out blankets in our living room and watched “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It was a nostalgic choice of movie, a way of indulging our childhood selves, and yet it quickly became more than that. As I watched the four Pevensies go from trial to trial, and ultimately onto triumph, I was surprised by the powerful feeling of longing inside me—longing I still feel, and that I think we all share: longing for a narrative.
We ache to know—more than that, to trust—that the events of our lives are not random, disjointed phrases, jumbled together without any semantics to hold them together. Rather, all the fragments of our lives are tied together by a holy and divine narrative, one where the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. It is a narrative that does not end in the fear we sometimes dread but instead in the good we cannot imagine.
The birth of God into time and place, into humanity, roots the ensemble of Christmas as securely as it roots the story of our lives. It exacts our greatest obedience to the very degree that it fulfills our greatest longings, and it is perhaps a testament to the truth of the gospel that, despite all our attempts at stifling it, this true message of Christmas dwells among us still.
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