Why Christmas?

It’s easy this season to become distracted by shopping, cooking, travel plans, and family get togethers. This year I’m finding it hard to celebrate the meaning of Christmas for another reason. Like I did with Thanksgiving earlier this year I want to pretend Christmas isn’t happening. I don’t want to wish people Merry Christmas or talk about Christmas plans. I don’t want to listen to Christmas songs.

For both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year I was assigned on-call duties for my clinical rotations. On the one hand I don’t mind. Home is too far away to make it back with the number of days off anyway. On the other hand spending both Holidays sitting alone in my house waiting for the phone to ring seems terribly unfair.

While it is one thing trying to blot out the fact that it is Thanksgiving to make myself feel better; it is a totally different matter to try to do that for Christmas.

Because while family and presents and food are an integral part of how we celebrate Christmas they are not why we celebrate Christmas. And without Christmas I have no foundation for my core beliefs about the world.

Christmas is about God doing something about the ultimate dilemma. How does He keep His word and His Justness while sparing the human race that He loves so dearly?

God loves us so much He doesn’t want to see us separated forever from Him, which is what we deserve for ignoring Him, worshiping other things instead of Him, and breaking the commands He made to keep us safe.

But God can’t just cancel out our sin. Would we really want to serve a God who didn’t punish our sin? Who said okay maybe you hurt this person, but I love you so don’t worry about it? No, we have a passion for justice ingrained in us.

So God decided to take our punishment on Himself by being born into the world He created on Christmas, dying for us on Good Friday, and rising as the Conqueror of evil on Easter.

On a mission trip I took to the Navajo Nation two Summers ago I heard a story that illustrated this so well.

An army general was forced to put stiff penalties on stealing food due to a shortage. It was discovered that food was missing, and the culprit turned out to be the general’s mother. He was faced with a hard choice: did he punish his own mother? Or did he overlook her crime and the repercussions it would have on the rest of the army? The army was shocked when they heard that he sentenced his mother to be flogged. But they were even more shocked on the day of the flogging when the general put his arms around his mother and took on himself every one of the blows meant for her. Justice was served, but so was love and mercy.

So when I’m tempted in the next couple of days to shrug off Christmas because it hurts since I’m far from home and alone, I need to remember that in one way Christmas is about God hurting for me. Christmas was the beginning of Jesus’s painful journey to the cross. God knows what it is like to hurt at Christmas.

And maybe I won’t be happy on Christmas, but life isn’t about being happy. It’s about choosing joy. And I am able to make the hard, sacrificial decision to choose joy because God redeemed me and set me free from being trapped by own emotions and desires.