Dreaming Of A Right Christmas
A friend of mine who is a psychologist told me recently that he has found the perfect formula for getting through Christmas. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, he said: “You just put your mind in neutral and go where you are shoved!”
We know the point he was trying to make. The Christmas rush, the hectic pace, the heavy traffic, the long lines, the frayed nerves, the large bills, the unrelenting deadlines—all combine to cause some people to “stonewall” their way through the season—to just put their minds in neutral and go where they are shoved. Please don’t let that happen to you. Don’t just endure the season. Don’t just grit your teeth and try to get through it. Enjoy it! Relish it! Savor it! Celebrate it! Sing it! You see, the good news of Christmas is so awesome, so full of wonder, that the best thing we can do in the midst of it all is to sing about it.
Have you been following the running conversation on the editorial page of the Orlando Sentinel about the music of Christmas? It was triggered by an op-ed piece written by a man named James Peters in which he expressed impatience and displeasure in being surrounded by Christmas music wherever he went. Understandable, I suppose, if you don’t know the real meaning of Christmas. However, once you do grasp the great good news of Christmas, then the music of Christmas becomes incredibly uplifting and inspiring.
I must admit, though, that one of Mr. Peter’s comments was accurate. He said that most of the newer Christmas songs don’t have much to do with Christmas. One of the songs he cited was “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. Not only does that song not have much to do with Christmas, it has nothing whatever to do with the kind of Christmas you and I know. Here, in the semi-tropical paradise where we are so blessed to live, dreaming of a white Christmas is the ultimate in futility. But while it may be foolish to dream of a white Christmas, it is not so foolish to dream of a right Christmas.
Let me spell this out by asking you to focus on Mary. When we see her portrayed on Christmas cards or in Nativity scenes, she looks so serene and lovely. The whole matter seems so simple and easy. Actually, it must have been incredibly difficult: the whispering behind her back, the pointed fingers, the false accusations, the raised eyebrows, the cruel laughter, the family pressures, not to mention the grinding poverty, the heavy taxes, and the exhausting journey at a time when an expectant mother ought not to travel anywhere but to a hospital. Add to that the birth in a stable, no doctor, no midwife, no medicine, no anesthetic, nothing but faith in God. It was a tough situation for Mary, and under similar circumstances, most of us would have asked the Lord to find someone else to do the job. Not Mary. She said: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your Word.” What faith! What obedience! Mary didn’t have a white Christmas. (It does snow in the Holy Land, but only on the rarest of occasions.) However, because of her faith and obedience, Mary did have a right Christmas. And from her we learn that…
A right Christmas means being right with the God above us.
Mary was tuned in to God. She was listening with the ears of faith and then she was able to hear God’s message and respond. She was right with God. Of course, that’s why Mary’s Son came into this world at Christmas— to set us all right with God, to bring us back into a right relationship with the One who made us and gave us life.
Some years ago, Dr. Hugh Litchfield told about taking his five-year-old son Christmas shopping a couple of days before Christmas. The stores were packed with shoppers and Litchfield warned his son not to wander off and get lost in the crowds. After a while, as Litchfield was buying something for his wife, he realized that his son was no longer at his side. He began to search frantically. No luck. He tried the candy counter, then the toy department, but he couldn’t find the son anywhere. Just as panic was about to set in, the announcement came over the department store speaker: “We have a lost boy in customer service. If you are the parent, please come to the service desk.” Hugh Litchfield hurriedly made his way there and sure enough, there was his lost child. The reunion was celebrated with lots of hugs and kisses and words of love. They had been apart, but now they found each other again, and the celebration was wonderful.
In that same sense, Christ has come down to this earth to help us get back together with God. God comes in Mary’s Son to seek and to save the lost and to bring us back to Himself. The way for us to have a right Christmas is to let the Christ of Christmas put us right with God. Mary had a right Christmas because she was right with God.
Remember, please, that it wasn’t easy for Mary to stay tuned in to the Lord. Everything around her was working against her. The same is true for us. It’s not easy these days to stay right with God in life. Sometimes it seems that everything around us is working to drive us away from the Lord. We need all the help we can get to stay right with Him.
By the way, do you know the story behind the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? With a new understanding of the song, you might not tire of it so quickly. You see, the song was written to help Christians stay right with God at a time when it was hard to do that. Back in seventeenth century England, Roman Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly. During this time “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written as a secret catechism to help teach young Catholics. The song was filled with hidden meanings known only to Catholics at that time, thus helping their children not only to remember the Christmas story, but the tenets of the Christian faith as well. I’d like to have a contest today to see how many of you know the secret meanings of the song. Roman Catholics worshipping with us today would not be eligible to enter the contest— they probably know the answers. But for the rest of us, here are the hidden meanings in the song:
- “The partridge in a pear tree”—that is Jesus Christ.
- “Two turtle doves”—The Old and the New Testament.
- “Three French hens”—Faith, hope, and love.
- “Four calling birds”—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
- “Five golden rings”—The Torah-the first five books of the Bible.
- “Six geese a laying”—the six days of creation.
- “Seven swans a swimming”—The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- “Eight maids a milking”—The eight Beatitudes.
- “Nine ladies dancing”—The nine fruits of the Spirit.
- “Ten lords a leaping”—The Ten Commandments.
- “Eleven pipers piping”—The eleven faithful disciples.
- “Twelve drummers drumming”—The twelve affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed.
Isn’t that wonderful? They wrote a song with a double meaning and used it to stay right with God when it wasn’t easy to do that. The first step toward having a right Christmas is to get right with God. Mary did that. And also from her we learn that…
A right Christmas means being right with the people around us.
Christmas reminds us, in the words of the pop tune, that “we are family”. It is no accident that when God chose to come to this earth, He came into a family. And part of what made that first Christmas so right was that Mary had things right with her family, the people around her. I look at Mary and I am reminded that the best way to express our love and appreciation to God is to love His children.
True story told by Margery Alcott. Back during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s, one family—mother, father, and six-year-old Pete—had no money for store-bought presents at Christmas, but that didn’t keep them from giving and celebrating Christmas. They decided to make pictures of the presents they would like to give one another, if they had had enough money to buy them. They wrapped the pictures up in big bows and put them under the tree. Then on Christmas morning, they had great fun opening up their imaginary presents. Most of the make-believe picture gifts were for Pete, of course—pictures of a bicycle, a pedal car, all kinds of games and toys, Finally, after Pete had opened all of his picture-gifts, he said: “Now, Mom and Dad, I’ve got a special present for you.” With that, he crawled up under the tree and pulled out a gift he had hidden there. With a big smile, he handed it to his parents. When they opened it, they found a picture which he had drawn with his crayons. Unmistakably, it was a picture of three people laughing—a man, a woman, and a little boy. They had their arms around each other and obviously were happy. Under the picture, Pete had printed just one word—”US”. Never a better Christmas gift than that one: a crayon drawing reminding them that love for one another is the best gift of all.
By the way, do you know where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from? With a better understanding of the background, you might not think it so silly. It came from the Druids in northern Europe. They believed that mistletoe had curative power and could even cure separation between people. So when two enemies happened to meet under an oak tree, with mistletoe hanging above them, they took it as a sign from God that they should drop their weapons and become friends. When the missionaries moved in, they saw this mistletoe custom and a perfect symbol for what happened to the world and in the world at Christmas. Christmas brought to the world a time of peace, a time of healing, a time of reconciliation, a time for embracing one another in the love of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that wonderful? My friends, if you want to have a right Christmas, then go in a spirit of love and set right any broken relationships in your life. If you are alienated from or at odds with some other person, in the spirit of Christmas, go and make peace. Don’t put it off. Drop your pride. Drop your weapons. Drop your grudges. In the name of Jesus Christ, set it right. God will bless you for it. That’s what the mistletoe really means. To have a right Christmas is to be right or get right or stay right with the people around us. We learn that from Mary.
Two people were standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City during the Christmas rush. They were waiting for the traffic light to change. The man, obviously irritated by the crowds and the traffic growled: “This city is a mess! Look at this traffic! It’s terrible. Something ought to be done about it.” The woman standing next to him said: “It’s actually quite astonishing when you think about it. There was a baby born of peasant parents in a little out-of-the-way village halfway around the world from here. The parents had no money and no social standing, yet here, two thousand years later, their little baby creates a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue, one of the most sophisticated streets in the world. That irritates you, but actually, it ought to fascinate you!”
It is fascinating! It is amazing! It is astonishing! But when you understand who that baby is and why He came, well, then this Christmas may not be white, but it surely will be right!