I love Christmas. Let the sleigh bells ring. Let the carolers sing. The more Santas the merrier. The more trees the better.
I love Christmas. The ho ho ho, the rooty toot toot, the thumpety, thump, thump, and the pa rum pa pum pum. The “Silent Night” and the sugarplums.
I don’t complain about the crowded shops. I don’t grumble at the jam-packed grocery store. The flight is full? The restaurant is packed? Well, it’s Christmas.
And I love Christmas.
Bring on Scrooge, Cousin Eddie, and the “official Red Ryder, carbine-action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
The tinsel and the clatter and waking up “to see what was the matter.” Bing and his tunes. Macy’s balloons. Mistletoe kisses, Santa Claus wishes, and favorite dishes. Holiday snows, warm winter clothes, and Rudolph’s red nose.
I love Christmas.
I love it because somewhere someone will ask the Christmas questions: What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger? Who was he? What does his birth have to do with me? The questioner may be a child looking at a front-yard crèche. He may be a soldier stationed far from home. She may be a young mom who, for the first time, holds a child on Christmas Eve. The Christmas season prompts questions.
I can remember the first time I asked those questions. I grew up in a small West Texas town, the son of a mechanic and a nurse. Never poor but certainly not affluent. My dad laid pipeline in the oil fields. Mom worked the three-to-eleven shift at the hospital. I followed my brother to elementary school every morning and played neighborhood ball in the afternoons.
Dad was in charge of dinner. My brother washed the dishes, and I was in charge of sweeping the floor. We boys took our baths by eight and were in bed by nine with permission to do one thing before turning out the lights. We could read.
The chest at the foot of our bed contained children’s books. Big books, each with a glossy finish and bright pictures. The three bears lived in the chest. So did the big, bad wolf and seven dwarfs and a monkey with a lunch pail, whose name I don’t recall. Somewhere in the chest, beneath the fairy tales, was a book about baby Jesus.
On the cover was a yellow-hayed manger. A star glowed above the stable. Joseph and a donkey, equally big eyed, stood nearby. Mary held a baby in her arms. She looked down at him, and he looked up at her, and I remember looking at them both.
My dad, a man of few words, had told my brother and me, “Boys, Christmas is about Christ.”
In one of those bedtime, book-time moments, somewhere between the fairy tales and the monkey with the lunch pail, I thought about what he had said. I began asking the Christmas questions. In one way or another, I’ve been asking them ever since.
I love the answers I have found.
Like this one: God knows what it is like to be a human. When I talk to him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, I have a friend in heaven.
Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print. He didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.” It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure.
Max Lucado, Because of Bethlehem (with Bonus Content): Love Is Born, Hope Is Here (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016).
I have just completed a series of six Christmas Lessons. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.