It is my personal view that despite all the eye-rolling irritations of the ‘silly season’ here in South Africa, Christmas really is what we make of it. Like many of you, my wife and I try to really embrace and enjoy the chaos of the crazy Christmas season – decorating the fake tree, sitting in sweaty traffic, the interesting South-Africanized Christmas food, the advent calendar for the kids, and of course the giving and receiving of gifts (wanted and unwanted alike). But amidst all the fun, frustration, family and feasting we try to be very intentional about doing what we can to keep the miraculous birth of our Saviour at the center of it all. It’s never easy and we have mixed success, but we will keep pursuing it as an annual goal.
Besides usually offering people some welcome time to celebrate, rest and reflect, the festive season often also brings with it renewed heartache over lost loved ones and gnawing regrets. Christmas provides an amazing opportunity for Jesus-followers to speak words of life, grace, healing and hope to significantly bless the people around us. We can choose to join the stressors during this time or frown self-righteously at all the overwhelming festivities, excesses and distractions of the commercialized chaos. Or we can choose to intentionally honour, proclaim and demonstrate the beauty of a pivotal time in history which was ultimately the start and heart of it all. By illuminating and celebrating the wonder and meaning of the birth of Christ, believers are able to be a bright star of hope to those who may still be searching the empty skies. And as people encounter the miracle of God With Us, the flashy trinkets, treats and toys will start to fade. Not disappear altogether, but fade into the background where they should be.
As Christ followers in South Africa, the promise and power of the Incarnation should not be diminished in any way this Christmas. God deliberately entered the world in a country and time similarly troubled by difficulty, hostility and leadership lacking in integrity. Jesus came to bring new hope and new life to those who would have faith in Him, as He does for us today.
What are you choosing to focus on and live out during this Christmas season in our crazy, beautiful country?