The Three Levels of Christmas
Fudge, wassail, Santa Claus, twinkling lights, Rudolph, gifts with bows, gingerbread houses, frosted sugar cookies, church and work parties, chips and dip, school plays, Christmas cards, and progressive dinners. This is a fun and happy level of Christmas. Our traditions strengthen our families and communities. We rejoice in the season and celebrate with vigor. We laugh too much, eat too much, and spend too much…and enjoy every minute of it. Three things I enjoy best about the fun Christmas festivities are the twinkling lights, out of town family and friends arriving, and the laughter.
But this level can’t last—even the hardiest of us can only enjoy this for a couple of weeks—it is too rich, too sweet, too intense, and too expensive. The tree dries out, the ribbons unravel, the snow melts, the batteries die, the dip goes sour, the gingerbread goes stale—and we are left with bills to pay, messes to clean up, and extra pounds to lose.
But thankfully, there is another level of Christmas. The drummer boy, beautiful carols, Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, the star, nativity displays, church pageants, Luke 2, and the baby in the manger. We feel a warmth and safety in the familiar story of the birth of Christ. We think of the stable animals and the tranquility that surrounded the holy little stable where the King was born. We picture shepherds watching the heavens and hearing a choir comprised of angelic voices. We reflect on Joseph’s strength and tenderness in caring for the virtuous and lovely Mary. We imagine holding the new baby and marveling at His perfectness. We dream of feeling peace and hope as must have been felt that evening by those who were aware.
But even this level won’t last. The baby can’t stay in the manger forever, the carols would become over-played and wearisome, displays would fade and gather dust, and the oft-told story would become trite if told every day.
No, for Christmas to truly be fulfilling and lasting, we must find and enjoy it on yet another level—the level of the adult Christ that has the power to save us from trouble, sin, pain, sorrow, and death. We must live as He lived, and love as He loved. Through Christmas season and throughout the rest of the year.
I often envision us climbing a very steep mountain—with sharp drop-offs and cliffs, the longer we climb, the more difficult it seems to be. But Christ is in front marking the path for us to follow. He calls for us to stay in His footsteps and encourages us to look up to Him—as if to remind us that looking down or back will cause us to stumble, slip and fall. Christ doesn’t take huge daddy-steps that we can’t reach—he takes steps just right for our imperfect legs.
It is when we follow in the adult Christ’s footsteps—caring for the lonely, sick, infirm, elderly, and young; teaching, strengthening, healing the hurts, and providing for the needs of others; willingly leading out in righteous causes—that we find hope, happiness, and joy during the Christmas season and that peace sustains us throughout the year. We are able to enjoy the first and second level of Christmas more because we know there is more—that when the tree and nativity are put away there will still be strength and happiness in our lives that comes from following the Perfect Exemplar.