Too many people have forgotten how to enjoy Christmas. Somehow we've gotten too wrapped up in keeping the "Christ" in Christmas, and too worked up about culture waging war on our faith, that we've lost our directions pointing us to the place of relaxation, enjoyment, savoring the sweetness of life, and letting go of things that frustrate us.
Pastor John Ortberg shares a surprising discipline in his book on Christian disciplines, The Life You've Always Wanted, how the root for our word for "holiday" comes from the ancient phrase "holy days."
He goes on to explain how the people of God would set aside holy days for celebration.
Creative Commons, Photo by Brownie
This maybe looked a little like something in the book of Nehemiah: "Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them." (Nehemiah 8:9-12)
Ortberg reminds us that fasting is not the only discipline. Feasting is also a discipline. There are times for both. But when is the last time you feasted guilt-free?
There is too much guilt surrounding Christmas these days, and this condemnation has caught on in the general culture in America. Even comedian Chris Rock shared the statement, "Jesus was probably the least materialistic person ever, yet we’ve turned his birthday into the biggest commercial season of all." While there is some truth to this statement, and while we don't want to get swept away in materialism or wasteful living, there is a time for feasting! While we want to be givers, not takers, there is something godly about giving gifts, and having fun. There needs to be times to celebrate guilt-free. Nay, there must be times to enjoy all God has made!
We need to learn to let go. We have taken it too far... our fear of being materialistic... the pressure we put on ourselves to be overly spiritual. Let us not forget our beautiful, ancient, spiritual practice of feasting. We can't allow ourselves to get to the place where we don't have fun or enjoy life anymore... where we don't allow ourselves to let things go. We need to remember that love "keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Cor. 13) Let's let go.
Our culture needs to see us let go. Some of the top songs this year are Taylor Swift's "Shake it off", and "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen. Culture clearly resonates with the desire to lay the weight of this world down. We know that this weight of sin and shame has been lifted at the foot of the cross. Honestly, one of the greatest things we can do for others is enjoy our own rich, satisfying relationship with Christ and walk in the freedom from guilt and anger of this world. When we do this, they see an authentic faith that they have been longing for, and are drawn to the gospel.
One of the most spiritual things we can do is lay aside our guilt, and eat lots of pie, and put down our phones and get lost in conversation with family and good friends for hours, and enjoy and savor and celebrate the greatness of such a season as Christmas. When we do this, we are walking in the freedom for which Christ has set us free.