Sometimes we’re tempted to think that all the familiar Christmas traditions—baking cookies, shopping for presents, and decorating the Christmas tree—are the “great joy” that the angels promised. Growing up, I often assumed as much.
At age 27, I was living in Europe, studying French. It would be my first Christmas away from the familiar. No stocking, no tree, no cookies, no family. When Christmas day came, they were celebrating an ocean away, and I was in France with another family, lovely yet not my own.
The next two Christmases I was in Togo, Africa. Again, I was with wonderful families but mine was still an ocean away. And in Togo, it’s hot! There’s no chance of a white Christmas, no matter how hard Bing Crosby dreams of one! No radio stations play the familiar classics—especially not in English. The truth is, Togo doesn’t really celebrate Christmas. To the western world, Togo Christmas is entirely lacking.
Now, I can hear you saying, “Yes, but Hannah, Christmas is not about all that stuff,” and you’re right. What we call “holiday cheer” was not what the angels came to announce. I know that, and you know that.
The real joy they spoke of is the reason I’m in Togo. And that is the joy I share every day as a missionary.
But when you sit back and reflect on your own “Jesus is the reason for the season” statements, do your actions, attitudes, and thoughts truly put Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebration?
Could you see a Christmas without the lights and decorations? Could you smell it without the baking of cookies? Could you hear it without the music? Could you still say, “Jesus is the reason for the season” in a place devoid of all the “Christmas” scenery?
Christmas has changed over the centuries. Today, the holiday season is cluttered with commercialism. This season, let’s examine our hearts and minds. How might our views and practices change if we were to skip the frills and simply revel in the joy of the coming Messiah—the fact that God became man, only to be born in a crowded stable?
I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine from the devotional “Christmas Through Jewish Eyes”. During my first year in Togo, it reminded me of the true value of Christmas. “Christmas is about the joy found in the announcement of the coming Messiah.”
Dear Lord, Thank you for the birth of your Son and the joyful reminder of what Christmas is. Thank you that we get to worship and celebrate you. Help us clear our minds of all distractions during this time and focus on you. Amen.