This year, I’ve been newly struck by the reality that keeping Christ in Christmas is far more complex than merely wishing every cashier and barista you interact with a “Merry Christmas,” and secretly rejoicing that you’ve managed to assert Christ’s place as the “reason for the season” in such an explicit way.
As I was reflecting the other day I was struck by this realization: could it be that by trying to keep “Christ” at the center of our holidays, we’re actually misplacing Him altogether?
Could it be that when we’re trying to wrestle Jesus into place in that Nativity scene or on that holiday card that He’s actually evading our grasp – instead choosing to be in all the places He needs to be?
The thing is that Christ is WITH us and WITH our world – all day and every day already. He’s WITH the lonely in seniors’ residences and girls’ homes – people who aren’t surrounded by loved ones. He’s WITH the hungry on our streets and WITH the ill in hospitals. He’s WITH us when we’re discouraged by our loved ones and WITH us when we desperately need peace. His very name is God WITH us as the prophet Isaiah had foretold: “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14).
When we try so hard to keep Him in his manger bed, I wonder whether He’s actually wandering about, visiting the stranger, feeding the hungry, comforting the lonely – even walking right next to us whispering words of love and comfort over our own bitter and hard hearts.
When we realise this about Jesus – that He’s with us, and that He’s calling us to follow Him – I think that that’s when we “keep the Christ in Christmas.” When we’re generous even when it hurts, when we’re radically hospitable, when we decide to say hello to someone even when it’s going to be awkward, or look someone in the eye when we pass them in the street and offer a smile, when we relax our grip on control and appearances – when we decide to trust that Christ’s arrival as a baby has changed everything, launching us even deeper into the reality that He is LORD – we can go about in tune with the good news that He is already at work.
In other words, when we look more and more like the Christ we know to be at work in our world already and love Him ever more dearly, that’s when we “keep” the Christ in Christmas.
Just some thoughts on a rather wintry Quebec night.