By: Alistair Brown
I like Christmas. Yes, it’s too secularized and I’m developing a passionate dislike for ‘Happy Holidays’ as a substitute for ‘Merry Christmas’. Yes, many have subsumed the real meaning to something like ‘peace on earth’ or ‘good will to all’, ignoring the centrality of a new born baby as God’s salvation gift to the world. Yes, there’s too much eating, drinking, partying and enjoying the celebration without recognizing the reason to celebrate.
But I still like Christmas. I love the lights decorating trees and bushes in my street, and laugh at the inflatable Santas or LED deer decorating front yards. I enjoy Christmas music playing in shopping malls, some great bargains in the stores, special TV programs, time with family and friends. And I don’t really mind eating and partying, hopefully within sensible limits. I like Christmas services in church, and all the more so these days because I get to attend and don’t have to lead. Presents are great too. It really is more blessed to give than get, but that doesn’t mean getting isn’t fun. There are a lot worse things in our world than the celebration of Christmas.
All that said, perhaps one of the most significant Christmases of my life came in my early 20s. I have no idea why I did it, but on Christmas Eve I got down on my knees and prayed, “Lord, a lot of gifts will be given tomorrow, but it seems to me the only real gift I can give you is me.” I’d been a Christian a few years, so this was no conversion moment. But I really meant my prayer. No flashing lights, no trembling hands, not even a warm inner glow. But I was sure God had heard.
Some of the toughest times of my life came just after that. Fears and failures, confusion more than certainty, doubts and occasional despair. Yet also a deep knowing that on Christmas Eve I had given my life to God, and nothing was happening which surprised him or was outside his control. I came through that bleak time, and I have never lost that deep sense of belonging to God. We can never out give God, and the inner knowing that my life is held and guided is simply wonderful.
With all our family living in the UK, Alison and I thought we might be sitting down to a quiet meal, just us and the turkey. But our son Alistair (yes, there are two Alistairs in the family) is flying over to be with us, and that’s a great thrill. (To keep costs down, he’s booked his return flight overnight starting on New Year’s Eve. He can say his journey back to UK took a year.) We’ll talk by phone or Skype to our three daughters, two granddaughters, and other family members. Those calls will have to be made before mid afternoon, after which the time difference means UK folks are heading for bed. As well as all that, friends here are inviting us to join in their celebrations around Christmas, and we’re so grateful for their willingness to include us. We will have a good time.
I wish and pray that you will have a wonderful Christmas. May your life be truly given to the God who has given himself entirely to us, and may you know through 2010 all it means to belong to him.