I did some copying work for my 5th grader's teachers today, and then ate lunch with both my boys. On my way out the building a woman who has worked as a crossing guard there for a long time greeted me and threw in, "All the Christmas madness got to you yet?"
My response was, "No. Actually, there is no Christmas madness in my house at all!" She looked at me a little surprised. Maybe she thought I was one of those religious people that doesn't celebrate holidays, or maybe I was just a scrooge.
"Actually, Christmas is a very sacred and happy time in my house. I love Christmas!" She gave me a look of curious acceptance with eyebrows raised and bid me a good day.
Christmas is the beginning of Easter for me. It's the beginning of an exceedingly special time of celebrating the meaning, the goal, the redemption..the story of life.
I was raised in a church system that threw the baby of worship out with the dirty bathwater of meaningless rituals. No doubt, worship happens, or can happen on any day, at any time of the day, not just on special days or holidays or Sundays or quiet times of "devotion". Just the same, setting aside the "normal" things of life that can be (and oh that they would be) worship-filled, to observe a tradition or ritual or ceremony or dedicated, special activity which focuses one's attention on the beauty and truth of Christ is equally right and good and, I say, needed for a vibrant relationship with the living God.
My dad was not one to really celebrate any holiday growing up. I understand, he was a broke log-truck driver with a family of 5 to feed. Couldn't see much use in spending money on Christmas "stuff" and un-needed toys when there was concern about where the money for the groceries would come from during the layoff season in winter. His logic and duty-driven work ethic permeates my thinking today, and I thank him for the help it gives me in not being attached to stuff. But when it comes to worship- the expression of adoration of God with my life- duty is a blasphemous kill-joy and relationship killer. And logic does not negate the need for celebratory worship, if anything, logic demands it. The most logical thing I could do in light of the wonders of the living God is celebrate him with my life, on special days and every day.
I'm reading Desiring God right now and Piper is expressing for me something I have not known how to express:
If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, "Why do you do this?" the answer that honors her most is, "Because nothing makes me happier tonight that to be with you."
"It's my duty" is a dishonor to her.
"It's my joy" is an honor.
There it is!… How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, "It's my duty"? Or by saying, "It's my joy"? -Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
For me, Christmas is not materialistic, nor is it a distraction from celebrating the substitutionary atoning death, and eternal-life guaranteeing resurrection of my Lord. For me it's not a time to be logically persuaded that Christ was not born on Christmas day and therefore should not be celebrated on Christmas day, or that Christmas has its origins in paganism and therefore should be abominated. It's not a time for me to do my duty and put up a tree and buy presents and go to church either.
For me, Christmas is a happy, dedicated season of celebrating and remembering and meditating on Christ- God incarnate for me and for His glory. It is rich with meaning. My senses get to take in a foretaste of what I feel when I read or speak the word glory. I feel something. I feel a glad expression of joy and awe at the condescension of God for me. I want to put up lights and think on the Light of the World. I want to smell the evergreens and inhale a hint of the beauty of the fragrance of the life of Christ. I want to sing the songs and dance around my house and smile and scheme of giving gifts that will bring joy and revel in the wonder that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that he could take the trail to the tree and absorb the wrath aimed at me.
When I celebrate the birth of my son two days after Christmas I don't do it out of duty or despise it because it's illogical to eat cake and blow out candles. I delight in throwing a party for my son being born. Should I delight any less to celebrate the incarnation of God, my Savior; a son, not just for Mary, but for me, even me?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6