There is a pop culture image of Christmas. It usually pictures a happy home, a warm and cosy fire staving off the cold outside, a groaning dinner table, kids playing happily with their new toys (and not fighting with each other), and families enjoying each others’ company with generous smiles all around. It’s in the songs. It’s on the Christmas cards. It’s in the movies.
I think we all know that this is really just a sort of 19th century Dickensian dream. For one thing, a warm cosy fire in 30+deg heat during a total fire ban is probably inadvisable. For another thing, what about all those people who are disconnected from family for whatever reason, or who don’t have the means to indulge themselves or their children on Christmas?
Christmas for Christians should be different. At the very least, Christmas should be an opportunity to reach out with the love Jesus has shown us in the gospel, rather than barricade the doors and try and defend ‘my’ or ‘our’ Christmas.
Remember, the Christmas story – the incarnation – is about Jesus putting himself to one side and drawing near to people like you and I who are admittedly hard-to-love.
Think about what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:
‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’ – Philippians 2:5-7 (ESV)
With this attitude, setting another place or two at the Christmas table becomes a profound celebration and demonstration of the incarnational, servant love of Jesus that Christmas is really all about.
Some of us have the family, and the food, and the presents. Then there are the single mums (and single dads for that matter). The widowed. Those in aged care homes who may be forgotten at Christmas. Immigrants and those working or studying far from home, who can’t be with their families at Christmas. Those children or parents who are estranged from each other. You could probably put names of people you know to these descriptions.
How could you ‘empty yourself and take the form of a servant’ to show them that the birth of Jesus really is good news this Christmas?
Live it: Who could invite into your family and home to share a celebration of the gospel this Christmas?