Advent begins the countdown to Christmas. In the church, Advent marks the beginning of a new year. Similarly, the Jewish new year and the Chinese new year do not align with the first of January — the new year on our ordinary calendars.
Every year, we struggle with the substitution of "the holidays" for "Christmas". Schools hold winter concerts instead of Christmas concerts. Public crèches and Christian symbols are banned, and yet houses, stores, city streets, and businesses are decorated with flashing lights and bright decorations. Every business has to have its Christmas party. Why?
The psychology of Christmas is well recognized by everyone, even though the theology of Christmas is not well known. Christians observe Christmas because of the incarnation — the Word of God became flesh in Jesus and the hope of personal and social renewal became possible. Every time a Christian wishes someone "Merry Christmas", the sense of hope, newness, and making a fresh start is conveyed. The same sense of hope is experienced in the exchange of Christmas cards and letters, gifts, emails, and gatherings for dinner and a visit.
On the other hand, the psychology of Christmas is practiced in a secular way for different reasons: to thank employees, to gain a share of Christmas shopping, to show love and affection to family and friends, to have a good time, to have some light at the darkest time of year, and to have a break from the ordinary routine of life. The trimmings of Christmas might even be curtailed so as not to offend anyone.
I once said to a colleague, "Isn't it wonderful that the whole community joins in celebrating the birth of Jesus with lights, music, and decorations, even though the theology of Christmas may not be acknowledged?"
As Advent makes its way to Christmas, let us keep in mind this verse:
Isaiah 28:20 – The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you. (NIV)
Without the theology of Christmas, the bed of our life is missing something, and we need to wrap ourselves in the blanket of Christ.
Prayer: Abba Father, in this busy season, we seek the quiet centre of Your presence in our lives, illuminated by the story of the birth of Jesus. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Come Thou Almighty King" (Lyrics)