I grew up not really celebrating Christmas as the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I grew up celebrating Christmas as a time for family and friends to spend time together and bless each other with gifts. However this year was a bit different.
Two years ago I was in Africa, deployed with the military, over the Christmas holiday. Away from family, but close to friends, I found myself wondering what God was teaching me. This was my first Christmas away from home. It was my daughters first Christmas ever. It was a season that I will never forget and while away from my blood family, I grew close to many people that I will stay close with the rest of my life. On Christmas day I flew on a combat mission and I can remember wondering that same question again. What was God teaching me? You might be wondering what this has to do with Christmas or the birth of Jesus, but being gone that particular Christmas has a profound impact on me.
While in Africa I was blessed to visit an orphanage and play soccer with the local children that were staying there. Many of these kids parents had either abandoned them or could not afford to take care of them and so they were left to caretakers at the orphanage. I met one young man who, when I asked him how old he was, told me that he thought he was around 21 or so. You see he did not know his actual birthdate. I thought it sad at first, since we celebrate our birthdays so much in America. I later pondered about not knowing the actual date he was born and then smiled with how similar it was to us not knowing the exact date Jesus was born.
This year my wife and I decide to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25th. Our culture celebrates Christmas on this day with Santa, presents, family, Christmas trees, lights, shopping, shopping and more shopping. We felt very convicted to celebrate the birth of Jesus especially after reading and article by Jen Hatmaker entitled “The Christmas Conundrum.”
We also, for the first time, did an advent devotional each night in a book called “The Greatest Gift” written by Ann Voskamp. Wow did God have a lot to say to us through Ann’s words! It will be a new tradition in our family from now on.
As Christians sometimes we can lose sight of what really pleases God. We try and please Him by following all of the rules, but one of the great things Jesus teaches us is to be like children. If are hearts are in the right place does not His grace cover our ignorance? Watch a child playing outside sometime on a playground. Do you see them asking what the rules are or are they just having fun? I can remember saying to myself in the past, “We don’t really know it is Jesus’ birthday on December 25th so we shouldn’t celebrate like it is.” I now have a new perspective and if my mind begins to think like this I remember that little boy in Africa and think to myself, “if I had adopted him we would have chosen a day to celebrate his birth even if we didn’t know exactly when he was born. Me and my family are going to do the same for Jesus.” Want to celebrate with us?