You certainly don't need me to tell you that this is a special time of the year. Just look around at all the things that set this season apart from the rest of the year: the decorations, the music, the displays, the special events and programs, the food. A cynic might add things like the long lines at the post office and the credit card bills that will arrive next month, I suppose. But everyone recognizes how special and different and, for most people, how wonderful this time of the year is.
But you probably also don't need me to remind you of some of the pitfalls of the Christmas season. Perhaps chief among those pitfalls is the temptation to focus on what we do this time of the year. When we consider all the shopping and wrapping and baking and preparations and decorating and addressing that we do, it's not difficult to become filled with a sense of self-righteousness and self-importance. The thought of, "Look what I did!" is often quickly followed by, "What have you done?"
Perhaps a greater danger than getting a big head when we consider everything we've done occurs when we consider everything we haven't done. How easy it is to become frustrated and frenzied as we consider the size of our to-do list, and the dwindling number of days before Christmas to get them all done.
Yes, this is a special time of the year. But too often, it becomes an especially difficult, distracting, and ultimately, a disappointing time of the year. Thankfully, there is a solution. If we want to make this special season especially joyful and peaceful and meaningful, we need to focus not on the things we do (or haven't done), but rather, on the things God did that first Christmas.
While the Scriptural accounts of Christ's birth are quite simple, even matter-of-fact, they are nothing short of stunning in what they describe. God became human. The Creator of the universe, who lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) became a helpless infant. The omnipotent, eternal, all-glorious Lord of lords set aside everything to become one of us. Think about it: God in diapers.
So why would he do it? Why would God cause all his fullness to dwell in a human baby? He did it so that he could take our place and live the way we were supposed to, that is, perfectly. He did it so that he could take our place and die the death we should have. He did it so that our fractured relationship with him might be made whole. He did it so that we might live forever. He did it because he loves us.
All the baking and buying - all the effort and expense we put into this season - pale in comparison with what God did for us that first Christmas. Finally, that's what makes Christmas special! The more we remember that, the more we will enjoy this special time of the year.