Christmas has arrived and you’re not merry.
Memories of Christmases past haunt you with scenes of simpler, more meaningful times. You’re tired of all the commercialism, crime and holiday hype that has come to be a part of what ought to be a season of reflection and joy over what really happened in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophets of old.
“Christmas?” “Bah! Humbug!”
Granted, there’s a lot to be desired about the way we remember the birth of Christ today, but other periods have had their Christmas celebration problems too. In 1664, the English parliament made it illegal to commemorate Christmas in any way because of the drunkenness and violence that had become part of the season.
Then came Christmas carols.
Poets and composers began putting the message of peace on earth to music and the impact of these rhythmic reminders of the true meaning of Christmas began to affect how people thought about this special day. Songs about looking back to Bethlehem’s manger and focusing on what happened there changed the public attitude about how to celebrate Christmas and brought an end to the restrictions.
There are some good things about how Christmas is observed in our time. Carols continue their powerful work, echoing through malls and workplaces, brightening attitudes and deepening faith. Thousands of hungry people are fed at Christmas and a special effort is made to find housing for those who, like the One born in Bethlehem, have “no place to lay their heads.”
Even gift giving looks back to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, when wise men from the east came to present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as they worshipped the one they had followed a star to find.
But you’re still not convinced.
Christmas just doesn’t measure up to those you remember when the true message came through loud and clear.
Fine. Revisit a Christmas past. Choose the one most meaningful to you.
Listen again while a family member reads the Biblical record of the birth of Jesus in the stable. In memory, sing carols along with those you love while gathered around the piano, in front of the fireplace or in a Christmas service at the church you attended as a child. Receive your gifts wide-eyed as you did so long ago and wait with baited breath as someone special to you opens the one you sacrificed to buy for him or her.
Enjoy your Christmas past but remember even then it was easy to be caught up in the celebration and miss the reason for the season. So break through the traditions you’re sharing and hurry to the manger.
Cut through the paper and ribbons and get to the Person of Christmas. You may remember a Christmas gathering when you made your heart a manger, a home for the newborn King. If so, allow the memory of this faith encounter to change your life.
With faith renewed, you’ll forget the failure of today’s holiday celebrations to measure up to your memories. And you won’t be a Scrooge anymore.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.