As I started to ramp up to Christmas I began thinking about how I typically celebrate this holiday. I began to think of my customs, my habits, and my traditions. I soon realized that I had some clear preferences around how I think the holiday should go. And then I began to think how crazy it is for me to be so focused on what I’d like to see happen at Christmas time.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. To put it another way, Christmas is our birthday party for Jesus.
Now, if I were to be responsible for planning a birthday party for a friend, what principles would govern my planning?
The most basic principle would be to be attentive to my friend’s values, preferences, and tastes. What I want for my friend’s party matters a lot less than what he would want. It is his celebration, not mine.
How is it then that, for many of us, Christmas has become about what we want? A house decorated to suit our preferences. A meal suited to our tastes. Visits to friends and family that align with our relationship preferences (or their expectations). Buying (and receiving) the “perfect” gift.
The more I think of it, the less I feel Jesus would want His birthday celebrated in this way.
“Bryn, how do you know what Jesus would want for His birthday celebration?!”
I don’t know for sure, in terms of the fine details, but I do have some clear principles to guide me. I read the messages Jesus delivered to His followers, and I’m able to detect that which Jesus values.
For example, to prospective followers, Jesus gave this message:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal…No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:19-20, 24).
I note that Jesus does not say that it is wrong to be wealthy. Some of God’s most devoted followers in Scripture were wealthy (Abraham, Job, David, for example). However, it does appear that our attitudes toward wealth and possessions are hugely relevant to our relationship with God.
I should mention that I am massively convicted by this text. I am tempted to covet things. I am sometimes preoccupied with my financial position, and improving that position. I like to collect and stockpile certain items (those who have seen my rec room know what I am talking about!). Jesus cautions me—these things have expiry dates on them. The apostle Paul reminds me, “we brought nothing into the wold, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7).
I am encouraged instead to pursue “heavenly treasures”. I’m exhorted to pursue God and His priorities, and I’m told that this pursuit will pay dividends in this life and in the next.
Have a listen to the audio below and consider what our life might look like if we began to care less about collecting temporal things, and began to care more about pursuing heavenly treasures.
As always, your feedback/comments are welcome and encouraged!