This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Read Part 1: Christmas Past.
We have all experienced disappointment, tension, and fatigue in 2020. These emotions and circumstances can leave us feeling exhausted and make it tempting to gloss over Christmas this year. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Christmas is an opportunity to pause and remember Christ’s presence in our lives as Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Throughout Scripture, God’s people are repeatedly commanded to remember who God is and what He has done. The command to remember might seem obvious, but it does not come naturally to humans. We are prone to forget God’s nature and His goodness to us, which is precisely why Scripture repeatedly commands us to remember. While we are not commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas in particular, we are commanded to remember what God has done for us, and Christmas is a traditional time to remember the grace and gift of Christ’s first coming to earth.
After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses commanded the people of Israel, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). You would think that after 40 years, the Israelites would not forget all that God had done for them in the wilderness. But despite frequent reminders from Moses and other leaders, the people did forget.
You would also think that it would be hard to forget how God humbled himself and was made a man to die in man’s place (Philippians 2). However, Christians continue to forget, regardless of God’s gentle and frequent reminders. Christmas is a time when we remember and celebrate the first coming of Christ, proclaiming this good news to the world and encouraging one another. However, it is easy to forget this good news in the hustle and bustle of the season or amid the trying circumstances of a year like 2020. Therefore, it is good to remind one another—this year and every year—of the true meaning of Christmas and all that God has done by sending His son, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 103:2-5 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all you diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” We can easily become distracted by the pain of this year and all that could have been, but even our worst circumstances pale in comparison with the blessing of all that Christ has done by saving us from eternal separation from God.
There are three things that we can do to practice remembering God’s goodness to us this Christmas. First, we can refocus. The chaos of the world, especially in a particularly challenging year like 2020, is overwhelmingly distracting. The only remedy to distraction is focus, which requires self-control, discipline, and determination. Focus on the beauty, joy, and goodness of Christ. “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Second, we can choose joy: “Rejoice always, I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:2). Complaining and focusing on our less-than-perfect earthly circumstances distracts us from the blessings of the Lord, both present and promised.
Third, as we refocus and choose joy, we can then encourage those who have forgotten and share the good news with those who have not yet heard so that all may rejoice and share in the presence of Christ. “But exhort one another every day, as long it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
The good news of the gospel starts at the birth of Christ, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). May we help one another remember and not forget the sacredness of Christmas and the beauty of the season.