by Bob Allen:
Once upon a time, I would be Grinchy about people setting up their Christmas trees, hanging lights and turning them on, blasting holiday music, and the like in November. I’m typically a “Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving” kind of a guy.
But something is changing in me.
I don’t think it is because of the nature of 2020, but this 366-day trip around the sun brought crazy and painful and challenge-filled days and nights. Isolation, heartbreak, death, loss, grief, fear, and all types of emotions have gripped people around the world. So, it is no coincidence that people are twisting schedules and entering into self-imposed quarantines to enable safe travel in December in order to propagate some sense of normalcy. The desperation for warmth and closeness builds as the darkness of separation shrouds the light of the season. The happy smiles and memories of “the most wonderful time of the year” take on new value and importance as the fretful tension of the pandemic swells. As such, I find the curmudgeons who declare Christmas music and decorations taboo before Thanksgiving increasingly annoying. Not because their argument doesn’t hold weight, but because they stifle a yearning for joy.
Look around you; people everywhere are trying to celebrate. People are going out of their way to be cheerful, as though they can will it into existence. This is why I have such a problem with grumps who think the season begins with Black Friday. Everyday should be Christmas season. I know that may sound a little ridiculous but the spirit of Christmas centers on the gospel.
Once upon a time, mankind was hopeless. I think of God’s word through the prophet Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isa. 9:2) We too walk in darkness, a darkness that flows out of fear, loss, desperation, sin, anger, and many others. But Christmas reminds us that while our struggles and shadows are real, God did not abandon us to the darkness. It, just like the crises we collectively face, is temporary. Rather, God stepped into our darkness by sending Jesus to take on flesh and dwell among his people. The prophet continues, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6) The apostle John writes, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” We were lost in the gloom of the valley of death and God sent Jesus to be our light.
Ultimately, yuletide points people to the truth by its very nature. The lights and boughs and candles insinuate the splendor of God to be revealed in glory. The gifts we exchange weakly mimic the blessing of the greatest Gift. The joy we share over holiday dinners foreshadows the rejoicing of Jesus’ bride gathering together at the wedding feast.
Amazingly, everyone who celebrates Christmas thusly emulates the gospel even if they don’t know it. So deck the halls, sing the songs, wrap the gifts, drive to the grandparents’, smile, embrace, eat the cookies, drink the egg nog. Don’t be ashamed to love Christmas because it’s a great reminder that God knows life is hard and he made a way to make everything better.