I once read an urban legend about a department store in Kyoto, Japan. According to the legend, many years ago, the store placed a rather unique display in its main window for Christmas.
In the middle of the Christmas presents and decorations was a life-sized Santa Claus, hanging from a cross.
The display wasn’t meant to offend anyone. It wasn’t intended to be modern art or a commentary on society. It was just a bit of cultural confusion.
Christmas at the time was just becoming popular in Japan. Apparently those responsible for the window had a vague idea that Christmas had something to do with Santa Claus and someone who died on a cross. Fact got mixed with fiction. The secular and the sacred were confused and the whole meaning of Christmas was lost.
Sadly, what happened in that store window in Japan often happens in our country and lives today. Our Christmas celebrations in the United States have become somewhat confused. In our front yards, we have Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman standing next to the manger. The secular gets mixed with the sacred. Fact and fiction get shuffled together. The meaning of Christmas gets lost.
For many people in our world today, the meaning of Christmas has been lost entirely. Even many Christians and churches today give mixed messages. They talk about how Christmas is about family. For many, the joy of Christmas is that we get to spend time with our loved ones. The peace of Christmas is when families put aside their differences and get along for at least one day.
But Christmas isn’t about family.
I know. That sounds harsh, but when Christmas is about family, what happens when you can’t be with your family on Christmas? What happens when you are alone on Christmas?
A temporary truce in your family – people pretending to get along for one day – is not real peace. In fact, more often than not, family gatherings at Christmas are filled with stress and tension.
There is a reason more people commit suicide at Christmas than any other time of year.
Christmas isn’t about family. The spirit of Christmas isn’t patching things up with your estranged uncle. Christmas isn’t about learning to be more tolerant or accepting. Christmas isn’t even about learning to be generous or giving.
Christmas is about the Christ. Christmas is about God who became a man to live the life you haven’t and to die the death you deserve. Christmas is about God giving up everything to save you. It is about his love, his sacrifice – the forgiveness and heaven he gives.
The peace of Christmas is peace with God. The joy of Christmas is the joy of knowing all the dumb and hurtful things you have said and done are forgiven forever because Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die at Calvary. The joy of Christmas is knowing that you have a home waiting for you in the peace and perfection of heaven.
When we start making Christmas about family – when the message of Christmas is about tolerance or world peace – it’s like hanging Santa Claus on a cross. The real meaning gets lost.
Christmas isn’t about family. Christmas is about the Christ.