Saturday, December 22, 2007
The First Thoughts of Christmas Morning
When going through some photos taken from some trips I made recently, I came across this photo of a steam engine that I took while in Minnesota. It reminded me of the excitement I had one Christmas morning when I realized that I was getting a Lionel train set. That was many years ago, during my childhood. Even now, I can remember the anticipation that Christmas once brought to me.
I looked forward to the annual showing of "Frosty the Snowman," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and other specials. While they didn't show as many biblical accounts of Christ's birth on secular television, there were always a few that were broadcast, and I enjoyed them very much. I can remember even at my young age getting tears in my eyes when they would show the Star of Bethlehem in one of these shows, and I caught that it was always in the shape of a cross. It's a wonder how the Lord works in the heart of a child.
I looked forward to having two weeks off of school, because school was a miserable experience for me. I won't go into why, but take my word for it. I was able to be home and watch all the preparations for family company over the holidays. I got to go to town with Mom and Dad when they were shopping, and was excited when the city workers were putting up the Christmas decorations. The time was getting closer and closer!
In all honesty, the thing I looked forward to the most was opening the presents on Christmas morning. And what else could be more normal for an American child at Christmas? But looking back with the hindsight of age and hopefully more spiritual maturity, I can't help having some regret over that reality. Because Christmas wasn't then -- and isn't now -- ultimately about kids who can't sleep out of excitement over opening the brightly colored packages under the tree in their living rooms. Christmas is indeed about receiving a gift, but not that kind. That should have been the most important thing in my mind, and that is what I should have been taught. I certainly knew about the "reason for the season." But my childhood training was lacking in the sense of giving me a proper perspective, and seeing it exampled in the lives of the adults around me.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I still wouldn't have been excited and happy at getting toys. But that excitement would hopefully have been balanced with a better sense of thankfulness, and realization of whose birthday we were supposed to be celebrating. The Lord Jesus gave the best gift He could give -- Himself. What kind of gift will we give Him? We ought to give Him the gift of our lives, as He gave His life for us. That should be stressed in the home of every believer, and the gifts around the tree only secondary. In fact, I often wonder if the presents shouldn't be given on another day, and Christmas Day itself reserved for worship and praise.
Don't get me wrong. I don't intend to make a legalistic, morose thing out of all this. I just get concerned that even Christians have fallen prey to the commercialization of Christmas, and what is truly the most important thing of the holiday gets forgotten in all of the baggage we have placed on it.
We must always remember . . . She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
There is an old hymn, "I would rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today." I don't know about you, but today I would rather have Jesus than the coolest Lionel train set a kid could ask for. As a child, I am not so sure I could have said that. But Christian kids ought to say it, and mean it. Since that is a matter of the heart, that is up to the Holy Spirit to form such a mind and heartset. It is our role as adults to teach it and model it. When Christian families place God's Word -- and God Himself -- at the center of their homes, the Holy Spirit is faithful to work in each heart and accomplish His purpose.
More thoughts later. So far, I am resisting the temptation to comment on "news" developments both within the church and outside the church. It's hard. But I am determined.