As I was on my way to the gym, I pressed #4 on the dash of my car, which tunes me into a local Christian worship station. This time of year, it plays mostly Christmas music. Between songs there was a segment where listeners were asked, “What is Christmas about?” Voices responded over and over with, “family.” Oh, a few said “gifts,” lights,” “friends.” One or two even said “Jesus,” but the vast majority answered with “family.” Hearing this didn’t surprise me at all. What came next did.
I expected someone on this station—that labels itself “Christian”—to kindly conclude the segment by reminding us all that Christmas is about Christ. It is a time where we remember God sent His only son to be born of a virgin in a humble stable to save people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Christmas is a celebration of our Redeemer physically stepping into history—a time where we rejoice that God came to be with us bodily and will come again.
In addition to knowing the story of Christmas, this is all wrapped up in the word “Christmas.” Christmas is shortened from “Christ’s Mass.” The word “Christmas” tells us what Christmas is about (unlike Easter): “Christ,” which means messiah in Greek; and “Mass,” a Latin word that points us toward His bodily presence.
My intention is not to make anyone feel bad for not knowing the etymology of Christmas or to point out those who play worship music all day should know better. (Okay… I’m a little disappointed in them.) The reason for this article is to explain how we do ourselves and our families a disservice when we say Christmas is about family—and not about Jesus.
I make this point because I love my family, and I assume most of you love yours. And it’s not that I don’t spend a lot of time with family during Christmas. Because I do. Following the Christmas services at our church, Emily and I will spend a week-and-a-half traveling around to visit our families. We will exchange gifts, eat great food, celebrate new arrivals and catch up on what we have missed in each other’s lives. We are intentional about having little on our agenda besides spending time with family. I encourage you to do the same if you’re able. Just remember what Christmas is really about.
Christmas is a celebration of our Redeemer physically stepping into history—a time where we rejoice that God came to be with us bodily and will come again.
Make Christmas about Christ, for the sake of your family. Here is why: Your family needs Christ. If they don’t, call me because you’re the exception and I want to hear more. I will be the first to admit my family needs Christ. Pretty much every person I speak to in the church I pastor shares that his family needs Jesus. Not in a “I’m better than them” sort of way, but, rather, in a “they are broken like me” kind of way.
If you are like me and go to large family gatherings during Christmas, your experience may consist of at least one of these scenarios. A sister having marital problems. A brother and sister-in-law struggling to start a family of their own. Cousins battling addiction. An aunt trying to hide her disappointment because her children were “unable to make it this year.” An uncle who lost his job of 25 years and spends most of his time at the party drinking and reminiscing. Parents who just found out their child has stolen from them. Grandma realizing grandpa will never be present for another Christmas.
To make Christmas about family at best only offers a band aid to the wounds torn open during this season. If you want to help your family, talk about Christ on Christmas. Your family needs hope, peace, love and joy. Your family needs to know God stepped down into this broken world to offer forgiveness, redemption and a future. Your family needs to know God loves them and wants to be active in their lives, no matter how messy, broken and hopeless they might seem.
Christmas isn’t about your family but it is certainly FOR them. So, will you make Christmas about Christ for the sake of your family?
How do you go about this? If your family hasn’t been in the habit of making Christmas about Christ, here are some ways you can begin:
- Ask the family if you can pray before the meal or the gift exchange. Take requests before you pray and pray over your family.
- Read Matthew 1 and Luke 2 before exchanging gifts.
- If you are decorating for Christmas, make the nativity the center piece instead of the tree.
- Invite your family to church the Sunday before Christmas or to the Christmas Eve service, then invite them back. If there is an Advent series at your church, ask them to join in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
- Invite your family to serve with you somewhere or to give with you to a charitable cause working on Christ’s behalf.
- Spend time with a sick relative or friend who was unable to make the parties and pray for her.
- Ask people to give to a local Christian ministry instead of getting you a gift.
May you (and your family) have a Merry Christmas!