Are you ready for Christmas?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard those words over the past week.
Usually people are thinking of external preparations – gifts, cooking, decorating, holiday plans.
I have nothing against any of these things in themselves.
I love many things about Christmas.
I love the beauty of Christmas lights against the darkness of a late December afternoon when I walk through the neighbourhood on my way home from the bus stop after work.
I enjoy the opportunity provided by the holidays to get together with friends and family.
I love Christmas baking and all the seasonal foods.
I love the spirit of generosity that motivates people to give at Christmas time. I am not a very creative gift giver, and have never thought of Christmas primarily as a chance to get stuff I wanted (I am grateful for having grown up in a household where this truly was not the focus of the season) but I have come to find much joy in giving gifts to my loved ones – especially when I can find something that will really bless the person to whom I am giving the gift, and not just add to the accumulation of stuff they don’t need.
I love the joy on little children’s faces – children young and unspoiled enough to truly enjoy the simple things that make the holiday special.
I love Christmas carols. In fact, it was through the words of a Dutch Christmas carol that as a young boy I first became aware that the baby Jesus came into the world to die for my sins and thus redeem me. Though it took me almost three decades to fully appropriate that revelation, I will be forever grateful.
I love that at this time of year it is still acceptable, in our increasingly pagan culture, to talk about Jesus and sing songs about Him and to Him.
But there are also things I hate about Christmas.
I hate that this holiday has become an occasion for people to put themselves into debt as they buy gifts for others way beyond their capacity.
I hate that so many missions and charities go underfunded while way too much money gets spent on gifts people don’t need or want. (And to those who say that all this buying fuels the economy I have a simple answer. So does giving to charity. It results in the purchase of goods and services for people in need).
I’m not an ascetic or an anti-materialist. I am grateful for prosperity. I’d just like to see more of its fruits directed towards the things that people really need, and the people who really need them.
I hate that so many people are lonely, grieving and ignored at Christmas time.
I hate that there is so much poverty, oppression, sickness and injustice in a world that is still very much in need of the light of Messiah.
I hate that so many people seem to have so little idea what Jesus truly represents and why He came.
So when I hear those words
Are you ready?
Ready for what?
Ready for Christmas?
Or ready for Jesus?