How to Keep Christmas

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Here we are again, trying to make Christmas special, maybe more than ever. Like Clark Griswold, we compete with our neighbors to get attention. Some of us for fun, some of us in desperation, we decorate our outsides and insides. We pull out all the stops to please our guests (and ourselves). We put out our best. We hide our worst. 

At my last house we had an old landline outlet that was in the middle of a wall. For the holidays we hid it with an advent calendar or wreath. What flaws or blemishes do you hide in your house? Or is it just your daughter’s flood of clothing always peeking out of her door?

Advent celebrates and prepares us for God’s arrival. What if you were getting your house ready for God to visit? We are so casual about God these days. Our society is nearly godless, and completely unconcerned about anything greater or mightier, truer or purer, let alone an almighty God who can arbitrarily set the rules of the universe. Christian or not we imagine God to be much like ourselves, which by its very definition would disqualify him as God.

What if the Creator of the universe was visiting you? Would you clean up your house? Would you hide every flaw? Would you put out your best china? Christmas celebrates God’s coming into the world, personally. His divine reign invaded our evil and dying one more than 2000 years ago.
This should have been a frightening experience. John the Baptizer surely thought so.  “His winnowing fork is in his hand,” John declared to unrepentant Pharisees! Yet surprisingly, God did not come in condemnation, power, or vengeance.  Instead, He came in the flesh, as an infant, approachable, and even vulnerable.  On one hand, He puff, puff, puffed and blew the houses down of those who proudly thought they were actually ready to stand before God. Yet when He came to messy, unkept, undecorated houses on the other side of town, He sat down and had supper without a complaint!

Sometimes, He would even visit those nicely decorated houses and bring a not-so-nicely decorated person with a lot of baggage. Like my mom, I wonder if Mary was always worried about who His friends were.  He visited those who couldn’t hide their sins behind status or power. He visited those who could not hide their dying bodies behind robes and accolades. Jesus came to our messed up houses with all our dirty laundry on the floor and the table not even set. He even hung between two people who could not hide the fact that they were wrongdoers and they were dying! And there He took our condemnation, our shame, our crooked ways, and buried them with His dead body forever. 

Are you ready for Christmas? God’s coming? The Last Day? If you are frightened that you aren’t ready, you probably are! Friend, you don’t need to hide your sins before God! He has come to take them anyways. It’s as ridiculous as hiding your trash from the garbage truck. 

You don’t need to put out your best works to impress God, either. He actually loves you despite your sins. In fact, Jesus has come to re-arrange your whole house, to clean it up and to decorate you! He gives us His righteous robes in exchange for our ugly ones. He places His ornaments of hope, peace, joy and love on our lives and in our heart. 

What do you a buy a God who has everything? Nothing. That’s how you keep Christmas well. Without guilt or shame, you enjoy His free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.