I usually start listening to Christmas music in October. Does that sound strange to you? When folks around me hear the music playing, their general response is that I am breaking the unwritten (but widely known) rule that the Christmas season starts the day after thanksgiving.
I am not nostalgic for Christmas season or Christmases past. It’s not that I only care for Christmas music, either. My main reason for listening to Christmas music as early as possible is this: as a Christian I am reminded that Christmastime always points to the reality that I am helpless to save myself. Christmas is the in-breaking of the living God into a world desperate for help, desperate for salvation, desperate for restoration, desperate for rest.
And yet, in our age I have found Christmastime to often be a hectic, almost maddening season of shopping and to-do lists longer than the hours of the day. Sound familiar? Today we are busier than ever, and with shops in our homes (on the internet), we never have to (get to?) leave the business of Christmas behind.
C.S. Lewis had a keen eye for this experience.
“You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”
It is good to give gifts. It is another opportunity to show love to those around us and those in need. But I wonder how often we hope our gift giving is, in some (small) way, earning us something. Our frantic work around Christmas reveals something about our belief system…we must keep up with The Joneses. And in keeping up with them, we are forced to give up the time necessary to enter in to the rest that Christ’s advent ushers us into.
It has been said many times, but it bears repeating (and repeating and repeating): the gift of Christ on Christmas day is incomparable. Nothing we will ever receive, on any day of the year, in any year of our lives, compares to the eternal gift of son-ship we received on Christmas day. “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.” - C.S. Lewis
Maybe, if you’re a bit like me and you’re getting ready to listen to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing for the 50th time this season (who’s counting?), you’re tempted to tune out the truths and simply skip along, trying to get all your work done so you can get that last Christmas card shipped out in time! But let’s make a deal, shall we? I’ll stop, today and every day before Christmas, and for a few minutes I’ll savor the gift that makes all other gifts worth giving. And in the rest of Christ we’ll truly enter (together) into the Christmas season, resting in the reality of our desperation and the amazing grace of Christmas day.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”