Please welcome Andrew Gilmore to the blog… asking a great question: are you really ready for Christmas?
I sat at my desk on yet another icy Monday morning. As I glared at the computer screen, my stuffy nose quickly blossomed into a sinus headache. Reaching left into my cold file drawer, I retrieved four red ibuprofen tablets. I shook them out of the bottle, one by one and refastened the lid. But just as I snatched the pills, about to send them down the hatch, a coworker interrupted.
“Are you ready for Christmas?” She craned her neck around the cubicle wall that separated us when asking the question. Although it was the first time I’d heard the query that December, it wouldn’t be the last. I’d soon find out everyone seemed to ask this question in day to day business. It had supplanted the weather as the small talk king of the mountain. I’m sure people have asked me the same question every year, but I never remembered it being so prevalent. Or maybe I just noticed it more.
“Oh yeah.” I said. “I’m definitely ready.” Who’s not ready for Christmas? It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
“I haven’t even started shopping yet.”
“Oh. Yeah. Actually I do have a few more gifts to buy.”
I had missed her meaning entirely. Are you ready for Christmas? was code for, Have you purchased gifts for everyone on your list?
I’m sure she was just making conversation, manufacturing small talk for the sake of friendliness. But our communication breakdown forced me to re-examine the question. When I did, I was struck at the poignancy of the inquiry. As I continued to overhear the question in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t help but hear it with those undertones of retail madness. How vulgar, I thought, to reduce the holiday down to buying and selling.
But if it was vulgar, I was just as profane. I may have missed my coworker’s meaning, but my ignorance didn’t immunize me from gift misgivings. Upon survey, I noticed my Christmas thoughts were just as shopping-centric as the next American.
I understand the pressure of buying gifts for family and friends. What if Aunt Susan doesn’t like that board game? Do those pants look too big for Joe? Oh, wow, there are only two Saturdays until Christmas! How am I going to get all the shopping done? I feel the pressure too.
Truth is, I love giving gifts. I take delight in selecting a thoughtful, personal present that might give someone joy. I think that’s the root of the gift giving tradition on Christmas. We desire to bring happiness to someone we care about in observance of the most joy-filled day in human history—the day the Son of God was begotten for the benefit of mankind, for the redemption of sins. It’s a recognition that God has given us the ultimate gift in His son Jesus.
But how often do I boil down the entire season, and the whole day to the buying and opening of gifts?
So as I kept hearing the question, Are you ready for Christmas? I kept pondering how that was possible. What does it mean to be ready for Christmas? Could I ever prepare my heart, my life, for the coming of the Messiah?
That’s the beauty of the gospel. God didn’t wait until mankind was ready to receive the king. If He did, we’d still be waiting. Instead, when the world was messed up, He blessed a young virgin with the only hope for humanity.
Each year as the Christmas season draws near, I try desperately to overcome the routine the culture has developed in relationship to the holiday. Not just giving gifts, but the songs, the cookies: the commonness of it all. I say overcome, instead of avoid because I enjoy all of those things. There’s a comfort in familiarity. But in that comfort I tend to overlook the majesty and the awe of the most high God wrapped up in eight pounds of fragile and tender flesh. What an uncommon thing! That while we were still sinners, unclean and estranged from our Father, He would extend grace through the birth of a baby in a barn.
If any two people on earth were prepared for the birth of the Christ, Anna and Simeon were. God revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the salvation of mankind (Luke 2:26), so he waited on God. Upon spotting Jesus in the temple, he snatched him up in his arms, telling the parents he could now die in peace. Similarly, Anna—the prophetess and old woman—prayed night and day at the temple giving thanks to God for the Messiah.
This is what preparation looks like—continual prayer, thanksgiving toward God, and anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises. So again I ask, even though we’ve heard the story one thousand times, can we ever truly prepare ourselves for the amazing gift of Jesus? I’m not sure that’s possible.
Am I ready for Christmas? No, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. But it’s coming anyway.
Andrew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God, but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration you need to connect with your Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons/ nativity