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What makes Christmas Christmas?

Christmas isn’t about what we do. It’s about Christ coming to earth to do what we were unable to do.

I have a secret. And it’s about Christmas.

It might be something you don’t want to hear: Christmas doesn’t depend on you.

If you don’t do another thing between now and Dec. 25, Christmas will still be Christmas. Honestly.

The idea that what we do is what makes Christmas Christmas is a lie. The truth of what makes Christmas what it is remains true regardless of how ready we feel or what we’ve done to prepare. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus, our God, Savior and King, came to earth as a baby. But we often neglect to remember the entire reason he had to come in the first place: Because we could not do what needed to be done.

Read this from Galatians: “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (4:4,5, emphasis added).

The Bible tells us that the time had fully come for Jesus to be born. But it surely wasn’t because Mary and Joseph were ready. It surely wasn’t because the most amazing inn had its best room available. And it surely wasn’t because the world was a safe place for Jesus. But still, the time had fully come according to God’s plan.

This Advent season, I’m using the letters in the word manger to help remind me that it’s not about what I’ve accomplished in my preparations that makes or breaks the holiday.

M—Motive

The Christmas cards are fun. The decorations are beautiful to look at. The cookies are oh-so delicious. But what’s the why behind your actions? Is it helping to prepare your heart for his coming or is it distracting your focus? Is it enriching the season for your family or is it stressing you and the others in your home out, causing arguments and exhaustion? Are you enjoying your preparations, or do you look at them with a feeling of obligation or dread?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

A—Ability

Not everyone is Martha Stewart or Joanna Gaines. One of my friends has incredible patience to have her kids help her hand make every Christmas card they send. Another makes the most delicious cookies with unbelievably intricate frosting decorations. Yet another has the financial means to purchase great gifts for everyone and anyone. I am none of the above. But I’m learning to accept that. God made you with your own set of talents and abilities. It’s only an exercise in frustration if you try to magically become someone that you’re not. It’s okay to buy—and not make—the cookies. It’s okay to say no to sending cards. And it’s okay to spend ten meaningful dollars on a gift for someone who you know will spend way more than that on you.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:6).

N—Need

Consider your needs this year. Has it been a rough one financially? Your family members don’t need grandiose gifts to know that you love them. Has work been more stressful than usual? You don’t need to put up thousands of outdoor Christmas lights simply because it’s what you always do. What about your spiritual needs? Do you need to connect with God and dig deeper into the Word before Christmas arrives? Let that be at the top of your to-do list.

“ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’ ” (Luke 10:41,42).

G—Grace

Oh, those troubled relationships, and things only get harder at the holidays. The questions of who will host, when will we eat, what will we eat, when will we go to church, whose Christmas program will the grandparents attend this year. The list goes on and on. Not to mention the idle chit-chat at the get-togethers themselves. It can be exhausting. Even the healthiest, friendliest relationships can be strained under the weight of the season.

Let grace be your guide in these situations. Jesus came to graciously forgive you for all your faults, and he asks you to extend that forgiveness to others for their faults at Christmas and the new year.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

E—Expectations

I remember my first Christmas after becoming a mother. I offered to host Christmas Eve, thinking it would be easier. I had this picture-perfect first Christmas with my babies in my mind. I got them adorable outfits with matching tights, and I decked out the table like something in a Pottery Barn catalog. The day came, and one of the girls needed to be changed before anyone even arrived. I spent what felt like half of the evening in my bedroom nursing and barely sat at the table that I had so carefully decorated to eat. I went to bed crying that night. It didn’t even feel like Christmas because life got in the way. I was expecting a magical day full of lighthearted laughter, great conversation, and babies who followed their schedule perfectly. The celebration of the Savior’s birth, which doesn’t change, was happening right before my eyes, and I could not join in the way I expected.

Evaluate your expectations: Are they realistic? Are you focused on the things of this world that disappoint us time and time again?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! . . . Do not be anxious about anything. . . . And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4,6,7).

R—Rest

Find time to rest during this Advent and Christmas season. Schedule it if you have to. Say no to working overtime or to that one last commitment that is going to put you over the edge. Instead sit in a chair, eyes closed, and reflect on what Christmas means to you as a child of God. Soak up just how much the Creator of the world loves you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Don’t let the devil’s lies replace the truth about Christmas: The King of the world came as a tiny babe at just the right time to do what we were unable to do for ourselves.

No, Christmas doesn’t depend on us. And for that we can be eternally grateful.

Reprinted with permission of Holy Hen House.

Author: Melissa Anne Kreuser
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021

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