Do we really need Christmas? Some still wage war against it in the name of political correctness, diet, avoiding family conflict, debt relief and stress management, or not adding to global warming! My view is that you and I desperately need Christmas.
Some of our favorite Christmas stories are about the transformation of needy people. Think of George Bailey, from the beloved movie, "It’s A Wonderful Life." George is a reluctant bank manager who comes to the brink of financial ruin, and falls into suicidal despair.
Or think of Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol." The story begins with Scrooge as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner."
Or think of the Grinch himself from Dr. Seuss’s classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He was not fit for Christmas. Why? Was it that "his head wasn’t screwed on just right," or that "his shoes were too tight" or perhaps "that his heart was two sizes too small?"
That’s us! The reason these stories appeal to us over and over is that they picture the everyman. We ourselves are in need of transformation. Add to that the fact that as December inches to its end, the year itself is weary. We are ready to move on.
Not to mention that we are usually awash in anxiety, self-focus, perhaps even cynicism and regret. We are curved in on ourselves and in need of a new beginning. Isn’t that what Christmas offers us?
So, yes, we all desperately need Christmas.
Most important of all, Christmas is the celebration of the coming and birth of Christ. That is what began this Feast of the Nativity. In Matthew 1:21, the messenger says to Joseph, "do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Christmas offers hope. We are not alone. God is with us. It declares that the eternal Son of God invaded space and time, assumed our human nature, became man, brought to us a righteousness we did not have. The crib and the cross are deeply connected. He came to die for our sins that we might have forgiveness and everlasting life.
In "Mere Christianity," C.S. Lewis wrote, "The Son of God became a man to enable men to be sons of God." This is not only a "supreme mystery" but also what Lewis calls "the Grand Miracle." It is still "the Greatest Story Ever Told" — a story of hope that lays the basis for the transformation of every person who will have him. Remove this part, and you lose the power of Christmas.
Second, Christmas brings light and music into our lives. Who doesn’t love the decorative lights of Christmas? They come out just when we need it, at winter solstice, when the days are shortest and the nights are longest. When the darkness dominates, the lights of Christmas pierce that darkness, reminding us of the blessings that Christ brought into the world.
Much of the music of the season has the same effect. Christmas is the holiday most known for its own genre of music. While some of it can get quite cheesy these days, much of it lifts our spirits. Together, the lights and music of Christmas bring joy just when we need it most.
A third reason we desperately need Christmas is that it gets us thinking about others. Christmas gets us out of ourselves, because, frankly, our work-a-day world can be very self-centered. Then along comes Christmas and it prompts us to consider the needs of others. At this time of year we are more apt to reach out to a neighbor, to thank a service provider. We are more attuned to the needs of a student, a shut-in, or a needy child.
Our family has had a long habit of going to a local hospital on Christmas week and singing carols to children in the cancer ward. Along with that, at Christmas we also exchange gifts with those we love. Christmas brings this kind of compassion into our lives, and we rediscover, as Jesus said, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
A fourth reason we need Christmas is that it makes time for family gatherings. People usually spend more family time together at Christmas than any other time of the year. When we gather, we feast and repeat our family traditions, whether it be decorating a Christmas tree, baking our favorite holiday desserts, watching a holiday movie, or attending a worship service. In this way, Christmas reinforces family bonds with those we hold dear.
Finally, we need Christmas because it is a season to recalibrate our lives. Historically, Christmas was more than a day, it was a sacred season. Work-wise it is usually a season as well when many of us have some extra days off, right before the beginning of the new year. It is a great time to reflect on our lives in the light of His coming and reset goals for the coming year.
Do we really need Christmas? Some people don’t think we need it at all. But I say, yes! We desperately need another Christmas!
Christmas is an opportune time in our lives for a great chance to start anew. Christmas can transform those of us whose heads aren’t screwed on just right and whose hearts might be two sizes too small. It brings hope, joy, compassion, bonding and clarity to those who need it most. Truth is, we need Christmas more than ever, and that’s why we keep celebrating it year after year.