Unwrapping Christmas

The theme of our church Christmas party this year was “Unwrapping Christmas.” That theme implies that Christmas is a gift, a wrapped gift. The thing about a wrapped gift is you don’t know what’s inside and you can’t enjoy it unless you peel away the things that keep it hidden. Perhaps unwrapping Christmas would look like removing the things that prevent us from enjoying the gift Christmas truly is.

Consider for a moment what it might look like to peel off the unnecessary hoopla that has, through the years, like layers of paint on an old house, accumulated to the point that you can’t see what the original color is. The beautiful color of Christmas is under there somewhere but it’s been buried by the whims of cultural custom, societal pressure, commercial interest, and spiritual neglect.

One of those layers has to be hurry. The Christmas paraphernalia is on the shelves the day after Halloween. There were lights up on my street before Thanksgiving as many rushed into the Season. Someone coined the term “hectivity.” Hectic activity. Often, rather than fill us with Christmas cheer and enriching our hearts it leaves us drained and impoverished.

Advent is about waiting, not hurrying. Mary waited for the birth of her child. Israel waited for the promised Messiah. We wait for the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness. It seems the patient posture of Advent has been usurped by Christmas rush.

I wonder what Christmas would look like if we took the hurry out of it?

And then there’s the plague of consumerism. Most businesses do a third of their yearly sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love gifts. Personally the giving and receiving of gifts is way up on my love language list. But I’m not talking about gift giving. I’m talking about consumerism; a power that leads so many unsuspecting victims down the road of never ending debt, stirring greedy desires for things doomed to fill our cabinets and cupboards, garages and sheds, drawers and closets to overflowing. It’s one of the coats of paint, one of the layers of wrapping paper that prevent people from experiencing the true gift of Christmas.

And what of the endless array of seasonal attractions, the must-see Christmas blockbuster movies, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, the holiday cleaning, grocery shopping, school concerts, and workplace parties; none of which, in and of themselves, is wrong. They’re only a problem if they hide the gift of Christmas.

What, then, is the gift of Christmas? Deep in our hearts we all know. We’ve always known. The gift of Christmas is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave…”

If love is the motivation of all our giving, if love is the driving force behind all our going, then we’ve unwrapped the gift of Christmas. But if somehow love has been buried underneath the pile of bows and banquets and parties and platters and gift cards and honey-baked hams, then maybe we need to do some unwrapping.

I hope I don’t sound like a Scrooge. I certainly don’t mean to. I’m just wondering if so many of the things we do in the name of celebrating Christmas is only wrapping paper hiding the big surprise. Maybe it’s true what the Beatles sang to the world back in 1967:

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love
Love is all you need



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