The six week long holiday season that begins Thanksgiving week and ends New Years Day is in full swing. While we all love this time of year, most everyone says they are glad when the season is over. I never understood this as a child, but as an adult I get it. I enjoy this season and many things about it, but I have felt there is added pressure on my family and have heard others express the same about feeling much more pressure on them in the last few years than they ever thought there would be there as adults.
What is particular interesting are the reasons we feel this pressure. I know our parents felt pressured during Christmas. They wanted us to have a joyful Christmas and to bless us with gifts in ways they couldn’t all year. I didn’t understand that until I had my own children. I used to watch parents when we didn’t have children and had a sense of haughtiness because I would see them overwhelm their children with gifts and continuously tell myself, “My kids will never be this spoiled.” And then I had children, and now I understand. Although we don’t break the bank to buy our children presents, I do want to bless them with gifts. This is the kind of pressure our parents felt. They wanted us to enjoy our gifts because it brings them joy to see their children happy. Right or wrong, this was their belief and their pressure, which brings me to the pressure that our current generation feels about Christmas and our lives in general. We have different pressures during Christmas that may be harder. It’s the pressure of the Christmas experience that is lived out on the internet, specifically social media web sites. Let me explain.
Our culture is still a culture of excess, but today’s craving isn’t so much a craving for possessions but for an experience. We want this Christmas to be the best Christmas season we’ve ever had. Now we make our homes themed for what experience we are going for: old cottage in the woods, urban loft Christmas, Christmas at the beach, all while we are taking lots of pictures to post on all our social media pages to show everyone else how wonderful our home is to be in during the holidays, which is the heart of the problem. We want all the stuff, in the best setting and it cannot be boring or outdated. We will not settle for an ordinary Christmas Day. We must have a season. We must have an experience. It must be filled will Christmas cookies that we made with our kids help that is followed by Christmas movies and singing Christmas carols. We no longer take our kids to see Christmas lights. We have to have pajama parties in our cars while looking at Christmas lights. My wife told me that some families send their kids a note and say they are being kidnapped to a pajama and Christmas light party. Huh?
The pressure doesn’t end there. In fact it hasn’t even started. The real pressure begins when you log in and see what everyone else is doing at their home for Christmas and then you ask: Why didn’t we get a real Christmas Tree like them? Why didn’t we hand make our ornaments like them? Why don’t I look like that when I put up my tree? Next year I will. And then we resolve to a have better Christmas experience for ourselves and our kids.
Christians are equally guilty. Why did we only read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Matthew and not from the Gospel Luke like they did? We only bought clothes for our own kids, so next year lets donate more money to charity like them so our kids will get the experience of giving back at Christmas. I only lit the Advent candles five times this year. They did one every day. I had advent devotions planned, but only did three and none them were written by John Piper! The manger scene we painted wasn’t as biblical as theirs. We sang jingle bells too much. We need to sing more Christian Christmas carols. Next year we will. And then we resolve that next year we will have better Christmas experience for ourselves and our kids.
The reason we have more pressure than our parents did is because the whole world is watching. If you wanted to, you could have your entire life documented in film, photo and word. You can take videos, post pictures, an give frequent short updates about your Christmas on Facebook, Twitter or longer versions on your blog. There isn’t a problem inherently with posting pictures and giving updates through the internet. What sits uneasy with me is the way these outlets are used for self promotion. Why do we do the things we do with the tools we have? In other words, why do we use the ability the internet gives us for information and communication for self promotion? It’s not that we are more selfish than other cultures and time periods. If they had Instagram, they would do the same thing and likely did within the context of their time and tools. We do this because within us there is a void that longs for greatness and because we are modern and postmodern, we believe that greatness is to be found within ourselves and this world. We believe that we are great and we need a great experience to make our greatness even better, so we use the internet to show the world how great we are and how great we do things. No need for the heavens to declare the glory of God, we have an iPhone with our camera and social media sites just waiting on us to upload and declare our own glory. See if there is no God, then there is nothing for the heavens to declare the glory of. Its just open space. But glory needs to be declared and if I am the greatness in this world, then I and others need to declare my glory and there is no better time than now to declare to all of the human race your glory. It’s just one click away. Any wonder then why we feel exhausted after Christmas?
What we need is this void to be filled. We need to renounce our belief that greatness is within us. We have to renounce our desires to declare our own greatness. Ultimately, we have to renounce our belief in our own deity. There is only One who is deity in human flesh. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Look to the heavens and see them declare His glory. See union with Christ the Lord as the greatest experience that anyone can know, an experience that never ends and is only getting better. Come to His church and participate in the greatest experience that happens on this side of eternity until Christ returns. Come see the body of Christ. Come and be a part of the body of Christ. Come and sing to Him. Come and praise Him. Come confess your sins to Him. Come and confess your faith in Him, which is your rejection of modernism, post modernism and self worship. Come and make your union with Him known to the world by passing through His water of baptism. Come and share a meal with Him, His Father and His brothers and sisters, who will be your Father and your brothers and sisters. And leave with His blessing over you as we go to different places of life until we meet again. The longings for a new and different experience doesn’t fit with Christianity, because we have been doing the same thing for thousands of years. But this gathering and this union never ages, grows outdated and only gets better with time.
I don’t want a new experience. I want the same one over and over. I want Christ and more of Him. I don’t want a new worship experience each week. I want to worship Christ the Lord, the same yesterday, today and forever. I don’t need a better Christmas experience. I have union with Christ, the Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. This is the experience not of a season, not of a lifetime, but of eternity. It’s an experience that refreshes instead of drains. Our burdens are heavy, but His shoulders can hold all our burdens and exhaustion. So cast them on Him, for He cares for you.
Advent 2016 A.D.