Most years I tend to lose sight of Jesus somewhere between the deals of Black Friday and the dawn of a new year. Of course I understand that Jesus is the real reason for the season, but the frantic pace I usually set to celebrate Christmas isn't very conducive to focusing on Him. Between Santa and jingle bells, Christmas parties, and presents to buy and hope for, I think most of us struggle to keep our attention focused on the baby in the miracle we're supposed to be celebrating.
As I fight to carve out the time to consider the sacred, I keep wondering how Jesus would celebrate His birth.
It's true that Christmas is a holiday created by the church long after Jesus ascended into heaven. He never had the chance to partake in Christmas as we know it. Even so, Christ's example is always a lead we should follow.
If Jesus were still walking the earth, what would He be doing this Christmas? Here's my best guess.
Jesus Would Celebrate Christmas
There are many places throughout the Gospels that record Jesus participating in the holidays of His culture. He ate holiday feasts with His family and friends (Matt. 26:18–19). John 7 shows Him attending church with His brothers during the Festival of the Tabernacle.
Jesus wasn't a stick-His-head-in-the-sand kind of guy. He didn't sequester himself away from His culture. While there are plenty of elements of our traditional Christmas celebrations that don't focus on Him, I doubt Jesus would ask us to ditch the entire celebration based on principle. (That's throwing the miracle baby out with the bath water.) I believe He would join us at our church Christmas pageants and family dinners and would accept an invitation to step into our decorated homes.
Jesus Wouldn't Focus on Presents
Jesus wasn't into stuff.
In Matthew 6:19, He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal."
In Luke 12:15, He said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Jesus never said possessions are bad. I don't see any evidence in Scripture that He would say giving each other gifts is wrong. But He did warn us that our stuff isn't as important as we think it is. This anti-materialism message is certainly worth revisiting at Christmastime.
Jesus Would Serve Others
Jesus repeatedly asks us to live our lives in service to others. I doubt He'd use His birthday as a holiday from serving others. Specifically Jesus asked us to make an extra effort to meet the needs of the poor (Luke 11:41), the hungry and thirsty (Matt. 25:35), those in need of clothing (Matt. 25:36), the sick (Matt. 25:36), and those in prison (Matt. 25:36).
It's great to spend Christmas with the people we cherish, but I don't think Jesus' Christmas celebrations would only include the people He is most familiar with. I believe He would spend His birthday in service to others.
Can you think of one way you can reach out to the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the needy, the sick, or the imprisoned this Christmas?
Jesus Would Take the Opportunity to Teach the Good News
In John 7:14 and John 7:37, we see Jesus using a festival as an opportunity to teach truth. As I read these passages, I am reminded of the simple fact that not everyone knows about the true meaning of Christmas. Not everyone understands that Jesus didn't stay in a manger but went on to die to pay the price for our sin. Not everyone has peace that passes understanding and the hope that this life is not all there is.
Jesus took advantage of those times when many people were gathered to celebrate a festival to reveal truth about God. We can do the same thing. Who will be at your Christmas party who doesn't know Him? Who will sit at your Christmas table who doesn't have the hope that only He can give? Follow Jesus' lead, and take the unique opportunity that Christmas provides to teach others about Him.
Clearly, this season isn't really about Santas and wreaths, presents and bows. It's about Him. He shows us how His miracle is best celebrated. Don't get too hung up on what's right or wrong about Christmas. Look to Jesus' example, and then bow your heart to the miracle in the manger.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancel the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:13–17, emphasis added).