Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas . . . Is Jesus Enough!


We've wrestled, especially since we have had kids, about how to celebrate Christmas.  What traditions to include?  What to leave out?  How to make our actions and traditions line up with our message that it is all about Jesus.

Isn't that really what a life lived for Christ is all about?  Making sure my life reflects my confession.  Because if it doesn't . . . my confession means nothing and isn't really the truth in my heart. 

Christmas is just one aspect where this tension is obvious and great.  And frankly, where a lot of followers of Christ throw in towel, intentionally or not.

I'm obviously not the only one thinking about this dilemma.  A blogger I follow, Jen Hatmaker, wrote an amazing post about this just the other day.  Definitely read it if you haven't.  Straight to the heart of the issue and so funny!

We've made decisions in effort to place Christ at the center of the celebration, where He belongs (dropping Santa, Advent calendar, reducing number of prizes, birthday cake for Jesus . . . to name a few).  But I still feel like there are things in our Christmas traditions that need to change.  I want to be willing to lay it all, ALL, on the altar.  To see age old traditions, or even harder . . . family traditions, burnt up and the ashes taken outside the camp, never to return.

This is where it gets real, y'all!  Santa wasn't hard at all for us to toss out because he makes parents have to spend more money and just plain isn't needed to have a great Christmas.

Take it a step further though and it hurts.  I love me a Christmas tree and twinkle lights.  The glow just makes me feel cozy the whole month of December.  But I'm really wrestling with how on earth they point to a baby in a manger who was born to take away the sins of the world. 

Why do we get each other prizes?  I'm not necessarily saying that this is wrong, but why is it a part of how we celebrate?  How does it point to our Savior?  I know Jesus got gifts from the wise men, but probably not at his actual birth and this connection is stretched a little too far when we end up knee-high in wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

But it isn't just about what we don't do.  We have to be intentional about the things we do to celebrate Jesus.  After laying it all on altar, we need take up what God approves.  What He declares as a fitting way to celebrate His Son.

Because have I, have we, forgotten that Christmas is in fact all about Jesus?  That He alone is the reason we celebrate.  Contrary to the what the media says, what the government says, or sadly what our actions say . . . Santa, presents, and a focus on self and stuff and more, more, more is NOT the reason for the season. 

In sending His Son, God was showing Himself faithful to the promise He gave way back in Genesis 3 as He cursed the serpent and assured Satan that one day an Offspring of Eve would crush his head.  Praise be to God that He is faithful!

All humanity was helpless and hopeless.  Separated from God with no way . . . NO WAY . . . to do anything about it on their own.  But God did what we could not do.  He, the God of the Universe, came to dwell among sinful people.  Emmanuel.  God with us. 

He went on to live the sinless life that we couldn't dream of living.  He fulfilled the law perfectly.  He died the death that we deserve to die as punishment for our sin.  Then He defeated sin and was victorious over death through the resurrection.  Our only hope for being born again and living a life of faith is in Jesus and Him alone.

The Gospel is beautiful and powerful and we don't deserve it one bit.

And a little baby boy born to a young girl in a Bethlehem stable is what ushered in the Gospel as a reality.  That is why we celebrate.  

In Jen's blog, she uses a quote from a friend about how weird it is that Christians talk all year about the awesome truth of the Gospel, but then on Christmas feel the need to add lots of other stuff to jazz up the holiday.  Essentially proclaiming that Jesus isn't enough.  That the Gospel isn't grand enough to "carry" the celebration.

That's a lie straight from the pit of hell and I want no part in making it seem like the truth.  Or worse, believing it as the truth.  Teaching it as truth to my kids.  Sick and shameful and not worthy of the calling we have received. 

Many probably think that this is way overboard.  And that's okay.  I'm learning to embrace the idea of being "foolish" for Christ!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you celebrate Jesus in your family.  If you wrestle with this too and what God is speaking to you about it. 

Merry Christmas!

** I wrote this post a few hours ago and have continued to meditate on it.  I also just read this post on Ann Voskamp's blog.  Read it.  So powerful!

I just read Jesus' words from Matthew 25 this morning . . . "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  If we are giving gifts, who deserves them more than the Birthday Boy?  And He clearly tells us that a gift to Him is one that is given to others, to the least of these.

Is this too much?  I think of changing everything and it scares me and I think of the ramifications and they scare me.  But then I think of the joy in giving.  The joy in truly giving Jesus what He desires.  And then I get excited at the possibilities.  Excited about my heart and the hearts of my children being wrapped up, consumed with the Gospel.  Even at Christmas.


  1. This is definitely something I have an do struggle with. I've wondered about things, too, like a Christmas tree. I think if you are intentional about things, you can still have a tree. For instance, the whole "evergreen/everlasting life" and "lights/light of the world" parallels. I don't think this is over-spiritualizing things; I think it's being intentional about why it's there in the first place. And then I was looking at ours this year as I hung ornaments. Most (not all) of our ornaments are not random. They are markers where I can acknowledge God's work in our lives--life milestones, mission trips, etc. Yes, some are from vacations, but those vacations have always pointed to refreshing and intimate time with family that we always share and thank God for. I definitely had a time of reflection upon God's work in our lives as I hung the ornaments this year. God's grace and provision was made possible by His Son. I think intentionality is the key.

  2. I should clarify that I don't think we need to throw out the tree completely, but just alter how we do it and the meaning we give to it. We are going to make ours a Jesse Tree where we go through Advent and put an ornament on each day that represents the Bible story we read that day that points to Christ. We also have ornaments that symbolize special moments and people and do honor what God has done. But just throwing on some red and silver balls isn't going to cut it!!

  3. Hey Cole! Thanks so much for sharing. This is my first Christmas as a parent and starting Christmas traditions for my daughter has really made me reevaluate Christmas culture. One thing I have been really convicted of is how can I pair a truth (Jesus's birth) with a lie (Santa, elves, etc.) and then expect my daughter to accept the mysteries of The Christmas Story by faith when I have told her to believe stories that are equally unbelievable about Santa only to later tell her I was lying. ("Santa really can't make it to all houses in 1 night, but Jesus really was born of a virgin" kind of thing)

    Also, I love following your adoption journey. We are praying for you guys!

  4. Great post and I, too, have been struggling through this. I mentioned my thoughts about a Christmas tree to a friend and she told me that her parents always told her that, to them, it represents a new life (although ours is fake bc of allergies) and that it reminds them that Christ came to die for our sins and he died on a cross made from a tree. I REALLY like that connection and that is how I plan on explaining it to Sam more as he grows up. Just like Jenny, our tree is mainly ornaments from places we have been, "firsts" for Sam, and milestones in our family. We do have a bunch of ornaments that we were given as gifts from my grandma but I think this will be the last year they go on there- I never paid attention to how many Santa Claus ornaments she has given us. WOW!

    We also do a Jesse tree. I have the little tree we used in our NOLA apartment and that is "Sam's tree" and on it, he hangs our Jesse tree ornament for that day. He LOVES it and I love that I can randomly point to an ornament and her can tell me at least the name of the person it represents and sometimes I can get a bit of the story.

    We "do" Santa but not in the traditional buy tons of toys way. Sam gets 4 gifts- PJs, money for savings, book, and a toy from us. He opens the PJs the night before and gets to sleep in them that night. Travis is big on collecting silver coins and saving money so that is where the money part fits. I LOVE to read and pray that Sam will continue his love of books. The toy is what will fluctuate as he grows but it will never be extravagant because we don't want the focus to be on gifts but on Christ. Santa "brings" one gift and it fits in a bag. However, Santa won't be coming down the chimney (freaked me out as a kid) and I found an idea on Pinterest for making a "Santa Key" so he can come in through the door and it also informs Santa that we are celebrating Jesus' birth and that God is the giver of all gifts. I really like that. We will also be telling Sam the true story of St. Nicholas so that he knows he does have Christian roots and shouldn't be SOOO commercially hyped up.

    Thank you for this post. It is nice to know that I am not the only one tossing all this around in my head as well. :)

  5. Great post, Cole. I love wrestling through why we do the things we do. Conviction....we all need that and our kids need to see their parents living a life this way. I never actually thought about the Christmas tree so that has made my brain start rolling as well.

    What we do is 3 gifts like the wise men. I know that they didn't actually give them to Him at His birth, but we go with it.
    FRANKINSENCE: A gift that will help them be the scent of Christ to others
    MRYH: Since this was used to embalm dead bodies this gift is one where you die to yourself. This year the girls did Operation Christmas Box. They each did a child. I took a picture of them with their box and that picture will be what they open in the morning to remind them how they gave the love of Jesus to someone else.
    GOLD: THis is a gift that they would really want. Something that would mean lots to them.

    We also do the stockings but now I am not sure why.....we also do a family gift. THe stockings and family gift have been what we said was from Santa. My girls know about him (again they are 4 and 2), but they don't write him letters. It is hard because at school today they asked each kid what they wanted for Christmas and it is hard when your family is not really made that way. I am sure it will get harder from a worldly perspective as they get older.

    Just our little family thoughts. Hope you are doing great!

  6. The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

    Stories and legends were past down throughout the centuries. One of the most popular was about St. Nick giving to the needy. People would hang their socks over the fire to dry at night. St. Nick would sneak in houses of the poor and put coins in children's stockings. This is where the Santa thing started.