Trying to Right-Size Christmas

It’s Christmas time again… already…

Didn’t we just go through this?  What did I give last year?  Where did I find the present?  What do I do this year?  Whose stocking did I draw?  What little things would they want?  Should we buy the tree yet?  Last year it dried out too soon.  Where was it that we got it?  Hmmmmm…

And then there is the social calendar… Are we included in any Christmas parties?  Do we want to try to squeeze in a special Christmas concert or play?  What about Christmas Eve dinner?  Who is coming?  How many?  What is the menu?

And then there is Jesus… But didn’t we just go through this?  Wasn’t it the same story last year?  How can a baby in a manger once again have fresh life and insight?  How do I awaken my sense of awe?  How do I get some of what the angels had that first night?

There are Christmas seasons that feel way too busy!  There is so much to do and so many people to acknowledge.  Expectations are heightened.  The culture comes alive with commercials and gift ideas!  (I do keep hoping to find a luxury car with a big bow on it in my front yard on Christmas morning. ☺)

And then there are seasons where it isn’t the flurry that prevents worship.  It is the familiar.  We have heard this story so often!  In some ways it is dramatic – angels, kings, danger.  But in other ways it is so simple and almost mundane.  The lead character in the play can’t talk.  The scene is usually played out without words.  The major characters are pretty mundane folk – a carpenter, a teenage girl, some shepherds, and a few animals.  The setting is certainly not glamorous – smelly, dirty, not colorful.

And not much changes.  The baby is born.  He is acknowledged by the angels, who then return to heaven.  He is visited by the shepherds, who then go back to the fields.  And life goes on…

But the world changed that day.  God snuck in.  You really couldn’t call it an invasion.  He snuck in in a form very few would recognize.  And in this undramatic entrance, He taught us something about Himself.  And He taught us something about life.

Most of the time, life isn’t dramatic.  Most decisions seem small in the moment.  Sure, there are big decisions – to follow Jesus, to get married, to change jobs, to have children…  But the decisions that change the direction of my relationship with God or with my wife are often made with little fanfare and no public acknowledgement.  They seem to just happen.  But their import becomes clearer over time.

At Christmas, it feels like the only way to make Jesus a big deal is to make His birth larger than life.  And it really wasn’t.  While it changed the course of human history, its significance was in the mission He came to fulfill.  He came to die.  He came to lay down that life on my behalf and yours.  He came to live a different kind of life for a larger-than-life purpose.  He came to save.

So this Christmas, I want to remember that the small decisions can have big returns.  I want to remember that choosing a particular path of love can change lives.  I want to remember that God chose a very particular, very low key way to give Himself.  And I want to focus on where His life went, as well as His life’s beginning.



Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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