Around here, it is not looking a lot like Christmas.

Author’s note: We are in the Southern Hemisphere for Christmas this year. As Canadians, accustomed to short, cold, snowy December days, I reflect on having Christmas away. 

Today is the longest day of the year. It’s hot. Curling up with Christmas movies? Not feelin’ it.

And that is a little sad, and liberating at the same time.

There is a certain freedom in being removed from the excesses of North American Christmas.

Excess buying. Excess eating. Excess decor. Excess events. Over many weeks.

Here, Christmas is not a season, exactly. It’s a day. One night (Christmas Eve). And one day. Done.

This is our chance to be simpler, more Christ-focused, more giving. Free of the obligations and busyness that tend to replace my Christmas spirit with a grumpy, slightly frantic version of myself. And yet, removing distractions is not the same as placing Christ at the center of Christmas. I’m learning more is required of me.

Our Christmas reading leans heavily towards the kids’ titles. This one is a brilliant read-aloud.

In another favorite, The Berenstein Bears Get Ready for Christmas by gathering parts of the manger scene that have gone missing. The sheep are in the linen closet. The shepherds are tucked behind a family photo. Only after a concerted effort, does the bear family  join at the manger and proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace!”

Here, too, I need to dig Baby Jesus out from under the tinsel and wrapping paper. To place him once again at the center of our Christmas scene.

Isn’t that always that way? Moments of worship – when Christ is at the center of our Christmas and our family – they don’t just happen. They take intention and effort.

Each person who met the Baby Jesus diverted from their regular daily routines to seek the child.

Joseph traveled far with Mary, uncomfortably pregnant.

The wise men’s quest took months, if not years. They trusted that the star and prophecies were leading them closer to the King. And they kept on walking.

The shepherds left their posts to go look for the baby.

How many in Bethlehem, busy with the demands of census season, missed the miracle? Hosting relatives from out of town. Cleaning. Cooking. Standing in lines outside Caesar’s government offices.

The manger has always been easily overlooked.

“Seek the Lord…”, David told his son Solomon. Finding the baby, finding the Lord, has always taken intentional effort. Seeking. Gathering. Preparing. Going. Interrupting our plans to respond to God’s.  And the reward? “… he will be found by you.”

Finding ourselves in his presence. That is where worship happens.

Have you had “to dig Baby Jesus out from under the tinsel” this Christmas? What helps you to keep Him at center of your family’s Christmas?

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