A Guilt-Free Invitation to Seek the Wonder

You’re allowed to answer this question with brutal honesty: Do you ever get tired of hearing constant reminders to focus on the “real meaning of Christmas” throughout December? We hear it from every angle—from the pulpit, the blogosphere, social media, the Christian bookstore. You really do know it’s Jesus’ Incarnation that provides our reason for celebration, but you just might crush a Christmas cookie in your fist if you hear one more person say, in a preachy voice, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Total honesty? I’m not a fan of that mantra. (Am I allowed to admit that?) I understand the good intentions behind the saying, but more often than not, it seems to be another trite phrase we throw around in December that makes us feel like our celebrations should be somber, solemn occasions. There’s a hint of guilt carried by that phrase, isn’t there? As if you hear a scolding tone, saying, “Turn down the Christmas music, step away from the tinsel, and silently study the Old Testament prophecies.” Sometimes, those constant reminders to focus on the meaning of Christmas feel at odds with our family traditions and the other things we adore about the season. Are we supposed to ditch those traditions altogether? Should our Christmas day be one long family devotional? Why are those reminders so guilt-inducing? We’re not sure so we pretend we didn’t hear, bump the volume on our iPhone up a notch, and frost another sugar cookie. Raise a candy cane in the air if you’re in the same camp as me. Though we may be tired of Christianese buzz phrases, we do need to be reminded to focus on Jesus Christ at Christmas—but maybe just in a different way.

Have Yourself a Distracted Little Christmas?

I’ve wondered what my Christmas season would look like if I merely had good intentions to seek Jesus without following through with my actions. It might look a little something like this:

  • Select the best-smelling Frasier fir we can find. Decorate it with red, silver, and white ornaments.
  • Start assembling this year’s 1,000-piece Thomas Kinkade Christmas puzzle—a new tradition for me and my husband.
  • Host a Christmas brunch, complete with freshly baked cinnamon rolls.
  • Shop, shop, shop for gifts . . . online! (Traffic is wild this time of year!)
  • Bake multiple batches of my Grammie’s gingerbread; pack up boxes of cookies to send to my family. (I’d consume every last one, otherwise.)
  • Watch Home Alone while I pour hot mugs of homemade Christmas cocoa—topped with fresh whipped cream and sprinkled with nutmeg.
  • Nibble on pieces of Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark from my yearly tin.
  • Wrap gifts with beautiful, thick, sparkly wrapping paper.
  • Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas—the cartoon version!
  • Burn candles that make my house smell like one big pine tree.
  • Snag those last-minute stocking stuffers.
  • Spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day laughing, eating, and gifting with family.

And because it seems that December speeds by in double-time, that’s all I’d have time for. Some years, that’s how it has actually played out—mentally, I recognized that our celebrations should all be rooted in our Savior, but my actions revealed my true loves: the feel-good things about the holidays. So really, the truth is if we don’t actively seek Jesus Christ at Christmas, the distractions will win out. I’m not recommending that we ban nostalgic movies and gingerbread (not the gingerbread!), but I am recommending that we don’t allow simple distractions steal our opportunities to worship Jesus. There’s so much more for us this Christmas season.

Seek out Christmas Wonder

This isn’t about trite phrases or guilt-inducing reminders. And this is more than mere acknowledgement of the reason we celebrate Christmas. This is all about intentionally adoring Jesus Christ as our Savior throughout December. I’m not here to give a preachy command; instead, I’m offering an invitation. Simply, seek out the wonder this Christmas. When you’re a young kiddo, Christmas feels magical. There’s an excitement in your little heart that you just can’t contain. Remember those days? But when we grow up, the “magic” seems to fade away . . . so we start to seek out nostalgia instead. (That’s why we tend to be distracted with flavored hot cocoa and the silliness of Home Alone.) Far better than nostalgia, though, is Jesus Christ Himself. It’s in Him that we discover wonder after wonder. When we seek Him, above all those feel-good comforts, we’ll never be bored or disappointed. So do our Christmas celebrations need to be somber and solemn if we’re focused on Jesus? Not at all. Your celebrations—and your heart—can be filled with true joy, because Jesus is Joy itself.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

This Christmas season, I’ve often found my heart singing a well-known carol: Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing. Let every heart prepare Him room, because the Savior of the world has come. This is the reminder we need—not a guilt-filled, get-your-eyes-on-the-manger reminder. But a joy-filled, gospel-centered reason to open your heart wide to Jesus. So how can we be intentional to make the distractions fall into the background as we seek out the wonder?

  • Pray. If you want God to renew the wonder of Christmas in your heart, simply ask Him. Pray that He would work in your heart, showing you opportunities to focus on Him. And ask for strength to obey. We can’t muster up wonder-filled feelings on our own—it’s all a work of God in and through us.
  • Craft a simple plan. Don’t go overboard with a way-too-complex Bible reading plan; keep things doable. Maybe plan to read a chapter of the gospel of Luke each day leading up to Christmas (there are twenty-four chapters.) Or find an Advent study with bite-sized readings for each day. Don’t overwhelm yourself—and leave room for journaling or listening to Christmas worship hymns.
  • Create space. This is where you’ll need to get really intentional, because time is a precious commodity in December. But in order to prioritize Christ above the distractions, we’ll need to create space—which may mean saying “no” to some fun things in order to say “yes” to prayer and Bible reading. Seek out the quiet and stillness. You may find you don’t want to leave those precious times with Jesus.

Maybe those Christmas buzz phrases have worn you out, but may we never ever tire of seeking the true wonder of Jesus Christ, born as a baby in Bethlehem. Our perfect Servant, Redeemer, and victorious King. Set aside the Christmas extras vying for your attention, and intentionally sit at His feet, the place of true fulfillment. He can fill your heart with joy this Christmas like never before.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10–14).

About the Author

Samantha Keller

Samantha Keller loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck.