Historically, I am a “no Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving” kind of guy. But thanks to 2020 fatigue, I broke down this year and listened to my favorite Christmas song before November 15. It’s the Pentatonix version of “Mary Did You Know?” (If you’re not familiar with it, I strongly suggest you check it out.)
This experience prompted me to take to Facebook and see if others were feeling the same way. Several responded that they too are moving onto Christmas earlier than usual. Some mentioned having Christmas trees and other decorations up already. Others mentioned that they too have decided to listen to Christmas music.
This is reminiscent of Christmas 2001. In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Americans couldn’t wait for Christmas. It was the first year commercial radio stations started their all Christmas music formats in early November. But I noticed something about the responses I received on Facebook. Most referred to secular representations of Christmas and virtually no mention of Christ.
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Ritz Cracker used Andy Griffith as a pitchman in ads where he asked, “what are you hungry for when you don’t know what you’re hungry for? The answer, of course, was Ritz Crackers. I would submit that many people anxious for Christmas are hungering for Jesus but are settling for the empty calories of Christmas commercialism. So, what might they really want for Christmas? I compiled a suggested list:
– Jehovah-Jireh: God our provider
– Jehovah-Rapha: God our healer
– Jehovah-Shalom: God our peace
– Jehovah-Ra-ah: God my Shepherd
– Jehovah-Shammah: God Who is present
– Jehovah-Tsidkenu: God the righteous one
Each is a Hebrew name for God found in the Old Testament. In reality, each describes a characteristic of God. Study each one and think about the year that has been 2020. How many people are worried about financial security, or healing from sickness, or peace with their fellow humans. How many long for God’s rod and staff to comfort them (Psalm 23) or to feel God with them, or see His righteousness reign?
And here’s the magnificence of God. You don’t have to pick or choose. You can get the complete set in one gift:
Jehovah-Elohim: Jehovah God
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:14 (NIV)
This is the complete God, Who is the total sum of all existence. Jesus referred to Himself with “I AM” seven times, none more dramatic than during a confrontation with the Pharisees:
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:58-59 (NIV).
They understood Jesus was calling Himself God, which is why they wanted to kill Him. I spend up to two hours every morning studying the Word, devotional writings of others and praying. And I am hungrier than ever for Jesus. As Oswald Chambers wrote, we are not saved from sin because God loves us. Because He loves us, He sent Jesus to cover our sins. In addition to that salvation, we get the character traits of Christ mentioned above.
Some of us know what we’re hungry for. Others are hungry and don’t have a clue as to what they hunger. Christmas reminds us. Perhaps God exposed us to the most trying year in more than a half-century so we would remember what we’re truly hungry for. Why fill up on the empty calories of the worldly trappings of Christmas when you can feast on the knowledge that Jesus came for us and lives with us?
Perhaps 2020 was all about reminding us that we can do that 365 days a year.
This post is adapted from the message: “What You Really Want for Christmas” delivered by Jerry Bader at Oakbrook Church on Nov. 29, 2020.