I can never enjoy Halloween. It’s not that I don’t understand the fun of dressing up in costume. It’s because I know that the whole Halloween narrative involves demons, witches, goblins, evil, curses, etc. The fun is spoiled for me because there is nothing redemptive about it. Evil prevails. The whole thing is just antithetical to the kingdom of God.
Now, this blog isn’t a vent against Halloween. On its face, our contemporary version of Halloween is not a hill to die on for me. All I’m saying is – as the old Hall and Oates song goes – “I can’t go for that.”
Likewise, I wonder why people who reject or ignore the Jesus of the Bible enthusiastically celebrate Christmas. Oh, I know there’s the food, family, gifts, music, tradition, and more. But when we subtract all the sentimental, hollow tack-ons, aren’t we left with a celebration of something that happened in history – God coming to earth in human form?
So I’m a little perplexed about why the unbelieving world makes such a fuss over Christmas. Would you celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, one of the two official holidays of Islam, even if it involved a two-week holiday, loads of great food, and things that are otherwise good and fun? I doubt it.
But, as you’ve probably already imagined, I’m about to answer my own quandary about why most people – believers or not – love Christmas. So, if you’ve read this far, I’m counting on you to humor me, and at least consider my theory. Hey, what can it hurt?
My theory is that deep down, the things that nearly everyone loves about Christmas are really half-hearted counterfeits of the deepest yearnings of every human heart.
I’m proposing that God graciously puts those desires in us to drive us to the only One who is able to satisfy them.
Here are three examples. I’m sure there are many more, so feel free to share your insights in the comment section below.
- Christmas means belonging. Don’t we all yearn for a place where we are welcomed and loved, where family gathers, and where there is acceptance, forgiveness, and safety? When such things are absent, our lives can get terribly out of whack.
Do you think it’s just a coincidence that emotional and psychological trauma that leads to violence and addiction can often be traced back to family breakdown and abusive homes? I don’t, because God has wired us with a need to belong.
And Christ has met that need in so many ways including adopting believers into His family (Galatians 4:4-6) and promising that “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). The icing on a cake is that God also gathers Christians into a spiritual family (Ephesians 2:19) in which we are called to love one another, bear one another's burdens; and encourage one another – not just one day a year, but for a lifetime.
- Christmas means gifts – Gifts are, by definition, good things we receive, but don’t earn.
The coolest Christmas gift I ever received came from my uncle and aunt when I was about 10 years old – a tabletop hockey game. It was the kind in which the players were manipulated by rods underneath the table.
What a great present! I had not asked for it, and in fact, I had never seen one before. But it turned out to be my favorite all-time game. In fact, years later I took it to college where my dorm mates and I wasted many hours playing hockey tournaments.
My aunt and uncle were generous, and they knew me well enough to know that I would like that hockey game. They gave it to me because they loved me, not because I deserved or earned it.
Salvation in Christ is like that – a gift given in love (John 3:16). It’s not earned, but received with empty hands.
I still have that hockey game. I found it in the attic of my mother’s home a couple of years ago. I pull it out at Christmas for a little friendly family competition, and because it reminds me that even when I had no desire for Him, Christ died for me, a sinner, and gave me the gift that I could never earn. (Romans 5:8)
- Christmas means peace – The Christmas card reads “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” And yet, anyone but PollyAnna can see that in our world, chaos reigns and goodwill is in very short supply.
The threat of terrorism looms. The Middle East could explode at any time. North Korea claims nuclear weapons that could reach our west coast.
Closer to home families suffer divorce, job loss, illnesses, rebellious children, death, and more. And doesn’t it seem that more and more families are broken hearted these days over a loved one who has come out of the proverbial closet or is enslaved by an addiction?
Oh, God, send the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) through the One who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Help me live in the reality that no matter what trials may come, may I live in the assurance that you are working for my good and your glory (Romans 8:28).
This Christmas, yearn to belong, desire the gift that cannot be earned, and seek peace. Then look to the one that supplies all that and more, “Saying with a loud voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
To receive power, and riches, and wisdom,
And strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing’”