Is there a better way of celebrating Christmas?

Christmas in its true origin and meaning is about God being with us in the person of Jesus to break us free from our ridiculous, empty-headed, humanity-draining idols. It’s about a human being who lived the life of God’s world in our world to show us what works instead of the nonsense we’ve created. And there’s probably no more effective and visible illustration of that than the way we celebrate Christmas.

On the one hand, Christmas has its good side. It nibbles round what God created us for, to live and practice the ways of heaven on earth. It’s a valiant attempt at self-giving love, which is at the heart of who God is and how he lives. It tries to create a little light in the darkness by grabbing the one time all year when it’s possible to break free from the daily grind to get together, revive relationships, and enjoy the beauty of family. And for many people it’s lovely. They love buying gifts, love seeing the children’s eyes gleam as they unwrap presents, love cooking up a storm, love the buzz of a house full of relatives, and love the warm fuzzy feelings Christmas creates.

But admit it: It is exhausting. We’ve created a monster that instead of freeing us from our idols has enslaved us to more of them. We must buy presents. We must wow the children. We must make Santa Claus magical. We must make the Christmas meal a work of art. We must do all these things or what will people think if we don’t? It also requires massive planning for large families, as to who goes where and when, and it risks all sorts of offence if some in the family feel cheated of the Christmas they had imagined. Gifts are a nightmare too: Who should you buy gifts for? And what do you give to someone who has everything? But anyone daring to say, “I’ve had enough of this malarkey, it’s driving me nuts,” is in for a verbal bashing and family shame.

Christmas was never meant to be this way, but we’ve painted ourselves into a corner and we’re stuck with it. We’re stuck with obligated giving, stuck with the rush to buy more stuff nobody needs, stuck with having to please children by feeding their selfishness, stuck with the stress and exhaustion of it all.

Is there a better way of celebrating Christmas, then? No, not while we’re stuck with idolizing rituals and customs that have no attachment whatsoever to why Jesus was born. Jesus was born and died to break the back of our cultural idols, not increase them.

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