Every holiday season we are bombarded with television commercials, ads in magazines, billboards, and movies portraying families gathering around the table with a beautifully laid out feast.
Everyone is smiling warmly at one another and creating wonderful memories with absolutely no stress or tension to be found. This is the American dream at its finest, and we all get to partake in it, right?
Then why is it that when asked about their holiday plans most people will respond with a heavy sigh, roll their eyes as they list off the obligations to buy gifts for people they don’t even like, and let’s not forget those tension-filled family gatherings?
Why is it that as the holidays approach us, so does the stress? What are we doing wrong? Where is the “peace on earth, good will towards men” that the Bible speaks of? Is it possible that we have lost focus of what Christmas is all about?
Growing up we had a tradition that before anyone opened any Christmas gifts my father would read the real Christmas story found in Matthew 1:18-2:12.
It was a beautiful tradition that reminded us why we were getting gifts in the first place. It was all about a Baby, the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. Christmas is about the greatest gift ever given.
As I have gotten older though, I am wondering if we should look to another Scripture to help us get into another meaning of Christmas. A meaning that is lost in our hustle and bustle of tradition. A meaning that is applicable regardless of one’s chosen belief system, even those who don’t celebrate the virgin birth.
Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
I suppose you could have many different interpretations of this simple Scripture. I could find many angles to teach on it. Perhaps my favorite is the angle of simplicity.
Wide is the gate that everyone is rushing into. It is the gate that is looking to keep up with others, it is the gate that wants to spend more on gifts, give more, and decorate more elaborately. It is the gate that wants to give for the wrong reasons, and it wants to celebrate with friends and family until it’s a hassle, and no longer fun.
But narrow is the simple way. Narrow is a bit harder to find. Narrow cuts out the unnecessary gatherings. Narrow discerns which festivities are true celebrations. Narrow gives quality time to the gatherings, not quantity.
Narrow understands it is the time together, not the price of the gifts that counts. Narrow can slow down, and realize it all started in a simple town, in a simple stable, with simple people and yet it was the most priceless gift ever given.
We can live in the “big gate” mentality, and lose the fullness of life, or we can find life and meaning in the simplicity of time relaxing, drinking eggnog, and sitting around a warm low-lit tree with the most precious people in our lives.
We can find life in the simplicity of pausing, breathing, and focusing more on memories than anything else.
As we approach this Christmas season, I encourage you to think about what you really want to get during the holidays.
What is really important when everything else is stripped away? Even better, think about how you want to live your life in the New Year. A life of exhaustion is not a life of meaning. What would it be like to deliberately pause and take little moments to appreciate the ones you love all year?
Olive Chapel wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas season.