Lighten Up and Brighten Up! It’s Christmas

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It is a great time of Year.  I can’t help but say “Merry Christmas!” and “God bless you!” in almost every social setting.  I am indefatigably committed to honor Jesus and bring the world into contact with the Savior at this time of year.  I can’t help it.  The evergreen tree, ornaments, lights, carol singing, wreaths, gifts and shared meals are all significant symbols relating to Jesus birth, life, death and/or resurrection.  When you add Advent devotional readings, worship services and watchnight activities, it just feels like Jesus is getting his rightful place- right in the center of the world and our activities.

At this point, some are expecting me to decry the invasion of Santa, the generic Festivus, “Season’s Greetings”, “Happy Holidays”- all threatening to usurp Jesus’ place on December 25.  There are plenty of blogs for that.  Others might be expecting the annual Christian tradition of some who tirelessly vituperate commercialism or the meaningless seasonal songs about snow and Jack Frost and open fires and mistletoe.  I’m not going to any of those places.  The world will do plenty of that.  Immature, uninformed people and people who are not of the Way will do what they are inclined to do.

But, the mature, will lighten up, brighten up and celebrate Jesus.  They will sing, praise, love, give, relate, reconnect, pray and inspire others to do the same.  This isn’t a time for railing and anger but of joy and deep celebration.  This is the season with the greatest excuse to exercise faith and share it.  We have a story to tell and it shouldn’t get muddied by the perfectionists who will analyze and try to correct the irreparably bad theology and imperfections of the day.  Santa or reindeer somehow will sneak into the manger scene uninvited.  Don’t let that intrusion ruin your day or year.

Our family has acted out a Christmas pageant for over 30 years- all of them imperfectly acted out and just as imperfectly videotaped by me.  We have recorded the creativity of family members who, with only 10 minutes from the time of drawing their assigned character to full costume and rehearsed lines, have been transformed into sheep with floppy ears crafted from white athletic socks, into wisemen with crowns from Burger King cardboard, into shepherds’ draped with sheets and holding broom handle crooks and into a doll transformed into baby Jesus and stuffed under an old prom dress (our six year old granddaughter drew Mary that year) to create a quick appearance of pregnancy.  It is always fun to the core.  No one wants to miss it even though our family has grown with families of their own and Christmas celebrations that are becoming more distant from one another.  After each year’s drama, we sing Christmas Hymns that bring tears to my ears and evoke worship from our hearts.  Jesus is once again at the center.

He is so much at the center of our household that we are habitually praying to and worshiping him, even more compulsively so at Christmas.  We have collected Christmas crèches from around the world.  We have 16 of them.  They are from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Burundi, Ethiopia, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Israel, Egypt and various places in the U.S. and Europe.  Some are made of wood, some glass, some metal and others a combination of materials.  Jesus is at the center of each one.  The one exception was the year our 4 year-old grandson decided to divide the many figurines into two combatant military forces in the middle of our kitchen floor.  The casualties of his imaginary war included six shepherds, two Josephs, several farm animals a clearly wounded wiseman and unavoidably, one baby Jesus who appeared to be a victim of friendly fire from a wooden Filipina (generally a very peaceful culture) Mary figurine who inexplicably took up arms and shot a Bolivian baby Jesus.  All have been miraculously raised to serve another year.

I digress.  I look at each crèche every year and reimagine that very first Christmas with a dirty manger, an intrepid Joseph and make-shift crib that smelled less than Christmas-like.  Again, tears come to my eyes.  This was God’s chosen entrance into our unhospitable world.  You would think after 40 years of doing this that I would get over it and stop blubbering and thanking God.  But, I just can’t.  “Hail to the newborn King.”  I will never get over it.  There is a light inside from above that spills out into my heart and unretractably from my lips.  I lighten up and brighten up regularly.

Of course, I have just mentioned what Christians for the most part know and that of which non-Christians are oblivious.  When the heavenly host announced “Peace on earth”, I have personally learned that to be more than symbolically true.  It is the good news that bears repeating:  “Peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor and grace rest.”

Please join me in looking not for what is wrong about the celebrations, the syncretism that has crept in for some, or the overwhelming commercialism that has invaded the occasion.  You may find futility in trying to correct an entirely uninformed and unreformed culture.  Just live out the truth.  Model the reality.  If you are among those who know what this whole matter is about and have, in fact, the good news brewing inside of you, then join me in sharing that.  Lighten up!  Brighten up!  And, by the way, Merry Christmas and God Bless You!

Matthew Thomas
By Matthew Thomas

In my sixth decade of seeing God work simply increases my faith. Born in California, raised in Washington, ministered in Washington, Oregon, Canada, Philippines, Idaho and now all over the world has given me reason to believe and praise. My wife, Marlene and four children (Luke, Mitch, Samuel and Charese) give me reason to give deep thanks. My eight beautiful grandchildren (Jalen, Jordan, Katelin, Andrew, Eli, Callia, Asher and Mikaela) give me reason to see that grace reaches beyond our immediate present into our un-conceived future. Serving with a great team in the Free Methodist Church makes me a blessed person in a blessed place, serving with blessed people.

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