This Christmas I have heard so many (meaningless) sources giving what they consider the "reason" or "meaning" of the season...things such as Santa, and food, and decor...all of which completely miss the point; you'd think even a secular person would realize how hollow those things would ring on their own. I was telling my neighbor Stacia how our tree has been up since around Thanksgiving and it still is not decorated. She was saying that Katie could help us when she gets home tomorrow; that's true and I'm glad for it. Still, if the tree were not decorated, if there were no presents, or carols, or cookies, or friends over, if there were no outward celebration of the holiday, still the goodness of Christ would remain. There would be nothing we could do to eliminate His goodness and hope, even if we meant to squelch it. The advent of that miraculous birth, that perfect life, that sacrificial death, and that marvelous resurrection all bring joy to those who would trust in the hope and enjoy the peace that come because of His momentous birth! The glory of that would sneak in under the doors, through the computer, through the phone lines; it would emanate from the sunlight coming in the windows. It would come in through things natural and things man-made. The quiet of the snow, the provision of the rain, the slipperiness of the ice all would sing glory to the advent of Christ.
So the performance of having everything perfect is not such a high-pressure impact on the joy of the season. I can do the things I love to do in order to celebrate; the traditions we hold make a continuity between years past and present; but it's not crucial to the "reason for the season." Without that pressure, the performance is pleasure, not pain. The remembrance of Christ, the little things that reflect His glory, should be a pleasure to implement. And so it is. I can make the cookies, the foods for feasts; buy the gifts, wrap them; decorate the tree...do all the things that anyone else will do; but if I am not joyful in the midst of it, or I'm despairing over a neglected tree, I've clearly forgotten the goodness that it all is supposed to represent. The goodness is there in spite of me.
The symbolism of each thing may be something of a stretch. Tim asked the other day what lights have to do with Jesus, and it seems pretty direct to say that since Jesus is the Light of the world, the lights should be symbolic of Him. Yet He is pure, which should be white light, and so many Christmas lights are colored instead. Our world doesn't perfectly glorify Him, but He shines in the darkness anyway. The candy canes have their legend too. I'm not sure that the tree is exclusively Christian; I've heard conflicting stories regarding the source of it. But since it only goes up for Christmas (at least in the context of our family's celebration), it also comes to reflect Christ in spite of its seeming obscurity. It doesn't matter that our Hindu neighbors also have a tree in their window. It just reminds us of their confusion, and that's a good thing. We need to keep people's confusion in mind and pray for opportunity to clear it up, for the words to speak at the right time. The increase in those opportunities is also a part of the glory of the season.
Christmas will come whether I'm with it or not. Joy will be there for the asking even if I get cranky and stressed and don't access it. Eternal life will be available whether we've ever celebrated a Christian holiday--it isn't because of what we do, but the Baby grown into the Man on whom we place our hope. Hallelujah! God is so good! Don't stress the little stuff; enjoy that cosmic event that happened on our little sin-flawed planet 2010 years ago. Merry Christmas!