I said to Chris the other day, "Do you think we should have birthday breakfast in bed for Jesus' on Christmas?"
He responded, "We'll have to figure out how we want to do Sunday, since church is at 10 this week."
My heart literally sank.
"Oh, that's right. Sunday."
Do y'all see the problem there?
I mean, is Jesus the reason for the season, or what?
Ugh... I think I have some work to do.
Mercy and Jaiden know all about the Santa character and they think he's great, but we don't do the actual Santa bringing gifts, naughty/nice list stuff. However, even without that little piece of Christmas cheer in our lives, I certainly can't lie and say I don't deal with other idols getting in the way of celebrating Jesus this time of year. For awhile my idol was, get ready, SANTA himself. More accurately, my idol was my commitment to not doing Santa. Unless Mariah Carey was singing about him, his name or face couldn't be found anywhere in our home (except that one year, but only if he was wearing hot pink instead of red.) And if I'm honest, it's pretty easy to go back there... Most December days I feel like Santa Claus has hijacked Christmas, St. Nicholas would be devastated and appalled to see what his legacy has become, as Santa and his elf continue to teach kids about moralism and being good for the sake of getting stuff, not for the sake of being grateful and being God's. So there's that bitterness harboring under my grinchy skin every December... and believe it or not, I've lightened up A LOT on that issue. What's poking it's head out much more often these days is the idol of my family, being sentimental, and creating traditions and memories... basically making this season look the way I want it to look as opposed to how Jesus would have it look. And just because His name is placed right where I want it to be in my plans and traditions, doesn't mean He is in them. As indicated by my clear disapproval of meeting Him at His house on His birthday.
So I'm writing this for myself, because I'm a mess... Because I need to be reminded of why we go to church, why we celebrate Christmas, and the awesome opportunity we have this year to enjoy these together.
So here it is...
Six reasons I want to skip church this Christmas, and why each one falls on it's face:
1. Because I want to have sweet family time.
I hope that you have a church family like we do. This Christmas season has really been a time of reflection for me about the family I've been given in Louisiana and the opportunities we have to worship together... These people are a beautiful part of our lives. These people are not related to us, but they are our brothers and sisters. (Matthew 12:46-50) God is our Father, and we are the bride of Christ. When we attend church, we are in God's house with His family, with our family. How much sweeter does it get than spending birthday mornings with our family? This is a birthday sweeter than any other birthday we will celebrate. This is the day we celebrate the birth of the Savior, a baby boy who lived a perfect life, died on the cross and rose from the dead, making atonement for our sins, giving us the opportunity to be adopted into His family and celebrate this very day. Family time doesn't get sweeter than this.
2. Because the kids will be so distracted by everything they know is waiting for them at home.
Y'all, our kids are SO excited to open all their gifts. I know their heads won't be at church... but I'm not convinced that's the point of bringing them this Sunday. Maybe this is an opportunity for them to see our heads and our hearts being there, even though their's won't be. What better way to show our kids that we believe what we say, "Jesus is the reason for the season?" On the other hand, if we skip church to open gifts and enjoy family traditions first thing in the morning, what will that show our kiddos about what we truly believe the reason is for the season? Not Jesus, that's for sure. Altering our regular Sunday morning routine of worshipping with our faith family, simply because it disrupts our Christmas traditions this year would show my kiddos the opposite of what we've been trying to teach them. Instead, that decision would very literally show them what it looks like to remove Christ from Christmas. We would be celebrating the nameless holiday the world has begun celebrating. It looks like Christmas, it's the same day as Christmas and it even acts a little like Christmas... but it's not Christmas.
3. Because we are going to church on Christmas Eve... So why go again Christmas Day? Let's take the day off!!
So Christmas Eve isn't Christmas Day, right? If the reason I want to skip church this Christmas day is because I'm going to be there the night before, I might have a problem. I would never skip Chris's planned birthday dinner, and when he asked me about it, argue that I had dinner with him the night before and we talked about his birthday a lot. No. That would never ever ever happen. Never. And the real issue here? Have I really come to a point in my faith and life where worshipping God in His house two days in a row is just too much? Do I really need a day off of worship and gratitude?? Have I really begun to prioritize family over Jesus, who, by the way, is the only reason I have the family that I have?? Oh man... that is an ugly mess.
4. Because December 25th isn't Jesus' actual birthday, so I shouldn't feel obligated to go to church to celebrate it...
Come. On. Is that a real thing? Is Easter Sunday (the day that changes dates every.single.year.) the actual day that Christ walked out of the tomb? No. It's the day we celebrate it. Here's the thing... the church body gathers together in worship every Sunday... <--that gathering right there was on Sunday before Christmas day was on Sunday... So it isn't some big schedule shift for my family and I to go to church on Sunday. The awesome thing about this particular Sunday is that we get to do all those things we do every week with our faith family ON THE DAY WE CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR. That. Is. Awesome. I mean, it really is. And I think it's important for my kids to see me excited about the opportunity to enjoy the union of these two celebrations. After all, it's not happening again until 2022, Mercy will almost be ten and Jaiden will have just turned eight. After that, it'll be 2033 and they won't be quite so young and impressionable by then. This is one of very few opportunities that we have to show our kids that what we say about Christmas and keeping Christ at the forefront is actually how we live. And you know, God might just use this Sunday to plant a seed that might just take root and sprout and blossom and change the lives of our children and their children and their children. And maybe in 2033, when they're all grown up, they will decide for themselves to worship Jesus on His birthday with their faith family.
5. Because I don't want church to become an idol. I think we're treading a fine line here... I mean, church on Christmas day??
Jesus, because of Who He is, cannot be an idol. He. Is. God. And there is no such thing as idolizing God. God is... well... GOD. And there's something about idols and God in the ten commandments... oh yeah. The first (and greatest) one (Exodus 20:1-3.) So the church is God's house, where His family meets to worship Him for Who He is and what He has done for us. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of God's Son and as Christians, we are the bride of His Son. This opportunity to worship Jesus on His birthday, in His house, is a rarity. Let's not pass it up under the faulty reasoning that we are "making church an idol." Let's not go to church for church's sake, just being at church isn't the point of being there any Sunday of the year. If I'm going to church to worship Jesus in His house, then I'm convinced I am not making church an idol, because, again, Jesus cannot be idolized.
6. Because I don't want my kids to think they have to go to church to be saved.
I know this isn't how we do Christianity in our house. This isn't Biblical and it's bad, ugly, moralistic, works-based non-sense. They know this isn't how we live out our faith, they know we don't go to church on Sundays to earn our salvation or their's, they know about their sin and they know what Jesus did on the cross. So... surely going to church on this one Sunday won't erase all of those truths they have learned in our home.... right? I mean that would be crazy... But if Mercy asks why we're going to church on Christmas, and I say, "Because it's Sunday so we have to," that might be a good step in that direction. So instead, I hope my answer this Sunday will look and sound more like, "Because it's Sunday! And it's Christmas on the same day!! Isn't that neat?? Let's go to church and worship and sing and dance and talk with our church family about how awesome it is that Jesus was born all those years ago so that we can celebrate Him together today!"
The bottom line is, in my original reasoning and defensiveness, my idols were being revealed to me, as well as my lack of commitment to what and Who I tell my kids that Christmas is about. And not only that, but also what I tell them regular Sunday morning worship is about. And don't think they aren't noticing just because they're two and three... Mercy listens to (and repeats... and remembers) every word that comes out of our mouths, and Jaiden is taking every bit of it in as well.
So while they're watching and listening so closely, Christmas this year is just such an amazing opportunity to make a big deal about Jesus, how many hours we have in the day, that all our gifts and traditions will still be at home in the afternoon, and that for these couple of hours, we are going to a big birthday bash!
And you know Santa would totally be there if he was, well... you know. 😉
What about you? What has God been revealing to your heart this Christmas?