“Bah Humbug!” you say. “I may love Jesus, but you can have these commercial Christmases. And if I hear one more sappy rendition of Frosty the Snowman, I’m going to lose my mind!”
Over the years I’ve been troubled by the increasing secularization of Christmas, by the distortion and even outright rejection of the true meaning of the season. But last year I had an epiphany. As I shopped, I couldn’t help but marvel at all the festive decorations in the stores—everywhere displays glittered in gold, silver, holly red, pine green. I was struck by the sheer beauty and splendor of it all. Driving home I passed one house after another decorated to the hilt with twinkling lights, Santa and his reindeer or smiling snowmen. The thought occurred to me, “It looks like the whole world is throwing a party!” And this got me thinking…
A deeper meaning.
Why would a society that has essentially rejected the babe in the manger go to such lengths to celebrate? “Christmas makes money,” you say. But why does Christmas make money? What is Christmas selling? I decided to set aside my frustration with excessive holiday consumerism and probe deeper.
Could it be that all this Christmas madness actually expresses deep longings of the heart? They say that Christmas turns the heart toward home. I pondered connections. Christmas/home. Heaven/home. This led to the following question:
How are the ways we celebrate Christmas tied to universal longings which can only be fulfilled in heaven?
Christmas takes us home.
The song says it well:
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
The universal longing: The lyrics, “Christmas Eve will find me where the love light beams,” evoke warm images of family and friends gathered around a softly lit tree, a fire crackling in the hearth, of laughter and gentle words of encouragement. Home is supposed to be the place where we belong. Where we’re accepted and loved. Where we enjoy the company of our loved ones. It’s a place of comfort, peace and safety. Home is a shelter, a refuge from the harsh elements. The place to come in from the cold for a cup of hot chocolate after playing in the snow.
Home is a cherished ideal in our hearts, especially because of what we believe it’s supposed to be and often is not. Many times our homes do not protect us from the cold realities of life. They’re not places of warmth and acceptance. And so we yearn for harmony in our relationships and peace in the world.
But perhaps the most unsettling truth about the earthly places we call home is their transitory nature. Something inside our souls is restless for permanence. For that place where we’ll never have to say goodbye ever again, to anyone or anything.
The fulfillment: Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” When we finally arrive on heaven’s doorstep, the door will be flung wide open and our loved ones will greet us with cries of joy. We’ll be immersed in one eternal hello, surrounded by pure love, bathed in a deep sense of belonging and acceptance. And we will finally have come in from the cold to the ultimate welcoming warmth, safe shelter, and comforting refuge.