George Bowers Sr.: Holiday or Holy Day?

December is almost here again and with it comes cooler weather, the possibility of snow, and, of course, Christmas. Children have been counting down to December 25 since last year and adults have been racking their brains trying to come up with suitable gifts for each other.

What do you do to prepare for Christmas? Many families put up and decorate a Christmas Tree, many put up special lawn ornaments, and most put up a Nativity somewhere in their home. Multicolored lights are often strung on gutters and evergreen wreaths hung on shutters. Plans are finalized for getting together with family and friends and cards are addressed and mailed. Menus are selected and ingredients purchased for those special Christmas feasts. And of course the shopping and wrapping seem to continue right up to Christmas Eve. No doubt about it, Christmas takes a lot of preparation.

I wonder, however, how much we prepare spiritually for this event? This is, after all, not just a holiday, but a holy day. Although gifts and decorations can heighten our enjoyment, the central focus must remain the birth of the Savior. Too often this vitally important fact gets lost in all the wrapping paper and glitter and before we know it Jesus is outside our Christmas celebrations looking in. On top of it all, we are physically exhausted and left without any spiritual benefit. Once again, the enemy of our souls has scored a subtle, but enormous victory in stealing the blessings that could be ours.

To spiritually prepare for Christmas, it’s important to attend Sunday worship in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day as we anticipate Jesus’ first Advent, together with other believers. Weekly worship helps to keep us grounded in the reality of Jesus’ birth and remind us of why Christmas exists in the first place. Attending special services like Christmas Eve Celebrations and Christmas Programs also help us to focus on what’s truly different about this holy day.

We all love to sing Jingle Bells and White Christmas and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but a Christian’s Christmas music ought to be dominated by songs which unashamedly glorify God and celebrate Jesus. He is, after all, the true reason for this season. Even our gifts can reflect Jesus either in their design or message or in the fact that we purchased them from businesses that help the poor and needy. There are many ways we can glorify God in our gift giving.

Our house decorations also should reflect who is Lord within and what we are celebrating, and our tree decorations can proclaim the holy birth as well. In addition, Advent Calendars can be helpful reminders for families each day leading up to the “Big Event.” For those who send cards, why not forgo the “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” and make sure that our mailings are obviously Jesus focused? Let’s use this gimmie holiday for evangelism to tell others about the Messiah and why He came!

Finally, our get-togethers with friends and family should include some time for reflection and prayer. It’s really not too much to ask, and failing to do so repeats the same mistake of the Innkeeper: we don’t have room for Him either. Let’s not only make room for Him in our celebrations, but let’s make Him the center and focus. Christmas really should be all about Jesus. Merry Christmas!

George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at gabowers@shentel.net.