“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. – Luke 2
For a while – possibly in response to the old David Letterman Show – “Top 10” lists were popping up all the time, featuring just about anything and everything. At the turn of the millennium, it was the “Top 100,” and – this time of the year – the entertainment industry generates best of the year lists for movies, songs, books, tv shows, and more.
But what about Christmas? The big “Christmas Weekend” is upon us, and there is a lot going on! So what would make it onto your “Top Ten Things I Love About Christmas” list? What floats your boat about this time of the year? What do you consider indispensable? What jingles your bells?
- “Walk Through Bethlehem” – This is our (WFPC) Christmas Card to the community (click here). I listed this first because we present the production at the very beginning of December. It puts the craziness of “The Holidays” in proper perspective and it is firmly on my list of must-haves.
- Advent – Christmas without Advent is a poor approximation that’s destined to disappoint. The season of preparation (focusing on peace, hope, joy, and love) is a critically important element of the sacred rhythms of the Christian year.
- In My Heart I Carry A Star – This is still one of my favorite books (click here). It’s not only a Christmas tradition but a faithful guide on the journey to Bethlehem.
- Christmas Music – Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday afternoon, Rebekah and I begin to pull down some of the decorations. Most importantly, several of our favorite Christmas CDs flood the house with music. Our hearts fill, then overflow.
- The Christmas Tree – Decorations are fun, but the tree is an absolute must – even if it’s the potted plant we decorated in our grad school apartment. And on top of the tree, the ragged doll Rebekah brought back with her from Haiti. Our Haitian witness preaches still, reminding us that Jesus came for absolutely everybody.
- Giving – Not the gifts we receive, but what we are privileged to share. It is through the experience of practicing generosity that we become rich.
- Family – Or, more specifically, Rebekah. If we had nothing in the way of a house, money, resources, gifts to exchange, or a feast to enjoy, we could still experience a rich Christmas together. O. Henry’s classic story The Gift of the Magi explains this better than I ever could.
- Stars and Angels – Light, and messengers. The star is probably my favorite Christmas sign because, rather than overwhelming with brilliance, stars simply show the way. Likewise angels, the point of interface between earth and the heavens, the mundane and the divine. Are we listening? Are we following the light?
- Christmas Eve worship – Possibly the most sublime moment of Christmas is, having taken communion together, lighting the Christ candle, touching flame to flame while singing Silent Night, and illuminating the sanctuary with the light of Christ. Darkness defeated – unequivocably – by the light of a single flame.
- The Nativity – Jesus. The simple, unavoidable, bottom line of Christmas is Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. The “Put Christ back in Christmas” campaign is silly to say the least. Absent Christ the holiday simply is not Christmas, but a hollow celebration of consumerism and sentiment. There’s no salvation there. There’s no reconciliation. There’s no hope, no peace, no joy – no love.
I’m sure we could all come up with different versions of this list. But I don’t care what your supporting elements are, your Christmas must be centered around Jesus.
Come Christmas Day, we must all consider Jesus, and make a decision as to how we should respond – how we will respond – to the invitation of the incarnation.
So let’s make this weekend count. Follow the star, listen to the angel voices, turn to Jesus.