I’ll never forget how sometime during the 1970’s I broke my piggy bank in order to release all the pennies I had saved during the year. I remember how I hoped I had enough money in order to buy an album recorded by one of my favorite bands: “The Partridge Family.” After counting my “hundreds” of pennies, my mom chuckled and told me not to worry, while handing me a few quarters and nickels in order to have enough to pay the New York sales tax.
I remember it was a cold, clear day in my Brooklyn neighborhood, but my heart was too “warm” with excitement to really feel the cold. I ran to the corner candy store, literally threw the sock filled with pennies on the counter and ran back with my album before the store owner could count all the change. Good thing she knew my mother! The Album’s name was “A Partridge Family Christmas Card” and the front cover was a picture of the whole family gathered around the Christmas tree. As I listened to my favorite song, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” I was the happiest kid on the block!
Now, as I review every song on that album I realize that NOT ONE of those songs mention Christ, or even hint at his birth! Every single song, note and rhyme, talks about the food, the gifts, the tree; the snow, and even the “blues” that some of us suffer during the holidays, but no manger and certainly no Christ. Is that what Christmas is all about? Is Christmas about the food, the gifts, the cards, the jingles and the Tree? Certainly there is a place for these things, and a cup of hot chocolate on a cold, Christmas night is something to be cherished; but THAT is not what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about worshipping Christ.
When God sent the Israelites to conquer the land of Canaan, he commanded them to destroy all the places of worship under every spreading tree where the nations worshipped their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:1) Today, if some of those ancient Israelites saw the “hussle-n-bussle” we go through in order to put the “right” gifts under the Christmas tree, they would certainly accuse us of worshipping a false god.
So what is worship? The classic word for “worship” means, “to give worthiness and pay our respects to a deity.” But, though there is some truth to that definition, it is incomplete. In our Lutheran understanding, worship is a responsive act towards God for his work through His Word and Sacraments. To worship God, is to turn our eyes from ourselves and behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When Christ comes to us in his Word and Sacraments, our hearts cannot but rejoice in his bodily presence among us, and in us.
Perhaps, we get so stressed out during the holidays because we place too much concern upon the gifts under the Christmas tree, and not upon the One who died on a tree, so that we might be saved. (Galatians 3:13)
Rather than worshipping the tree, and in turn ourselves; let us worship him who died on The Tree of Calvary and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, who is CHRIST. Merry CHRISTmas!