The Meaning of Christmas

Our Christmas tree at Palm Church decorated by the kids and our congregants
Our Christmas tree at Palm Church decorated by the kids and our congregants

Christmas is a big letdown.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love pretty much everything about Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. I love gift giving. I love singing Christmas songs. I love Christmas decorations. I love trimming the Christmas tree. I love Christmas parties. And I love special Christmas food! In fact, one of the things I miss the most about living in Georgia is Christmas breakfast with Cassie’s family. Every Christmas morning after all the presents were opened, we would go over to Cassie’s mom’s house and have this tremendously huge breakfast! Freshly made grits, country ham, scrambled eggs, biscuits with sausage gravy, and my absolute favorite, frozen peaches. Weird right? But Cassie’s grandmother would freeze these peaches when they were in season and when they thawed, they were the absolute best tasting fruit in the world. I don’t know if she added sugar or something to them before they were frozen but they were so sweet and delicious it could almost be a sin. And for the past few years since we’ve been out here in California, Cassie has taken it upon herself to make Christmas dinner. I remember the first time she did it she planned it out like it was one of her projects at work. She came up with a spreadsheet timeline of exactly when each dish needed to put in the oven and for how long and how much time she would need to prep each part. It came out perfectly. And I didn’t have to do a thing but enjoy it. It’s one of the best presents I get all year. But after all the presents are opened and the food is cooked and we’re sitting together on the couch with our stomachs way too full, we both inevitably look up at the beautiful, shining Christmas tree in our house and realize it all has to be put away. There’s something weird about waking up the day AFTER Christmas. There’s nothing left to look forward to. It’s all over. Now, that’s not completely true. For my family, New Year’s Day is like a second Christmas, but I think you know what I mean. Two months of being inundated with music and lights and commercials and TV specials and toys and gift giving and parties and suddenly…it’s…over.

But does it have to be?

Does it have to be over? Why is it that Christmas doesn’t last all year? Maybe not the lights or the music or the weather; I mean I’m a pretty big fan of summer and a person can only take so much peppermint. But why can’t we hold on to that Christmas spirit all year long? It certainly seems to be Biblical. This evening, we’re going to read a passage that’s one of my favorites from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phones, go to Colossians, chapter 3, beginning with verse 12. Colossians 3:12. What I love about this letter is that it typifies God’s work in the world. As we heard in our reading last week from 1 Corinthians, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are.” According to a commentary about this letter, the house church at Colossae was “the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed.”[1] Yet, this particular letter has become one of the most important and influential for us today. In the passage we’re going to hear tonight, Paul gives us instructions on how we should live our lives as children of Christ.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Choir singing at Christmas Eve
Choir singing at Christmas Eve

This is the kind of life we are meant to live everyday. A Christmas life.

A life that reminds us who Christ was and what he believed in. It’s why Paul tells us to embrace compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. The qualities we find in abundance during the Christmas season, are exactly the qualities Christ wants us to live with all of the time. To bear with each other, forgive each other, and love each other are the ways we are supposed to act. We shouldn’t have to wait until after Halloween to capture the Christmas spirit. Instead, we should be able to keep it alive all of the time in the little ways, the everyday ways we live our lives. And when we do this peace that Paul writes about, can become ours. This peace that can rule our hearts and make us feel content and whole is a promise of God to us. And the key to obtaining that peace is living this life we are called to by God.

Sometimes that seems difficult if not impossible. But it isn’t.

It’s within our reach. And it’s not about being perfect, because God knows none of us are. It’s about returning over and over to this life in Christ that leads us to a transformation of our inner selves. It’s about becoming someone new by practicing over and over the kind of person we want to be until we actually become it. That’s what Paul means when he tells us to clothe ourselves in these traits and qualities. It’s an action on our part that we have to consciously do, like putting on our clothes. We have to make these choices for ourselves and do it everyday as surely as we pick out a shirt and pants or a dress or a blouse or a skirt. That’s what I mean when I say we must lead a Christmas life. This Christmas spirit that seems to magically come around every year is something we can choose to continue even after tomorrow when it’s time to put away the lights and decorations. It’s a matter of making the choice to do it.

The things we do during the season are what keep us grounded in its spirit.

So instead of waiting for 12 months to do it again, let us continue to live as if every day was Christmas. Randomly send gifts to people simply to brighten their day. When you see something fun or unique that a friend or family member might like, get it for them. Take the time to wrap it up and give it to them. Or send someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time a card and do it for no reason other than wanting to make contact. Don’t wait for their birthday, but simply drop them a note. Be randomly generous. Give an extra large tip to your server at the restaurant. Leave something extra for the person who does your hair. Pay for the dinner of the person behind you in the drive-thru window of your favorite fast food place. These are the kinds of things we find natural to do at Christmas. Why not make them part of simply who we are. The point is simply this: We are called to live a Christmas life. Not just during the month of December but all year round. We are often called an Easter people, maybe we can be a Christmas people, too. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/background-colossians

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