I love the sights, sounds, colors, and tastes of Christmas. I enjoy the gifts, decorations, and delicacies unique to December as much as anyone. You could say that Paul Tripp goes “all out” this month! It’s innocent in many ways, but perhaps I love it too much; or, maybe I enjoy this holiday for some of the wrong reasons.
If you pay attention to the messaging of our culture, Christmas has become a season focused on the acquisition of created “stuff.” Isn’t that a blatant contradiction to the gospel message? The glory of Advent is that the Creator himself becomes a man to rescue us from our bondage to the creation!
Yet here we are, indulging in Christmas in a way that reveals our hearts are still prone to worship and idolize the created. We’ve turned the message of Christmas on its head, which once again exposes how much we need the daily rescue of the Savior.
So, as we flip the calendar to December, here are some practical tips to help you and your family re-focus your attention on the real reason we should celebrate Christmas: the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Start early. You can’t start early enough or tell the Christmas story often enough. Consumerism and self-centeredness have been preached at us for months already. Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to talk about our need for the birth of Christ.
Stay focused. Your calendar will be loaded with exciting activities and parties this month. Enjoy them, but before you know it, a week could fly past, and you may have forgotten entirely to meditate on Christ. So be quick to return to the gospel story at every opportunity, every day.
Read Christmas-related Scripture. The Tripp family used to memorize and recite Luke 2 together every Christmas. This planted into our brains the beauty of the coming of Jesus as our Savior. Don’t forget Old Testament passages that point to the arrival of Christ too.
Go and see a performance of Handel’s Messiah. It’s December 1st, which means there is plenty of time left for you to find tickets. No single piece of music more powerfully demonstrates the need for Jesus to come, how he came, and the consequences of his coming on our lives. I have been going since I was a little boy, and I can’t recommend a better annual tradition to remember the beauty and glory of the coming of Jesus than this.
Emphasize the spiritual over the material. Look for opportunities to embed the Advent story everywhere, particularly if you have children. Two metaphors that you can use are:
Gifts: While shopping for, requesting, and giving gifts, remember that Christmas is about one Gift. But on the first Christmas, something radical happened: The Gift was the Giver.
Decorations: While decorating, remember that we will always be tempted to “decorate” our lives with beautiful things that we hope will satisfy us. Christmas is about the birth of the only One who can fulfill our longing hearts.
Look for opportunities to give and serve. Christmas is primarily a consumer-centric holiday: what can I ask for, what can I get, what parties can I go to, what delights can I taste and see. Yet, let us never forget that Christ gave up everything to serve and minister to others at Advent. What if you made a new tradition to give this holiday season?
We can do so much more than just giving people presents from their wishlist. Identify someone in need, and identify someone lonely. Jesus came because God cares about isolated, desperate, lonely people, and so should we. Find opportunities to give these people gifts—not merely physical items, but the gift of your time, presence, and encouragement, mainly using hospitality and a meal.
The birth of Christ is the ultimate solution to the isolation and loneliness that began in the Garden of Eden. So, this Christmas, incarnate that love of Jesus. If you do, this holiday will be rich with spiritual blessing—much richer than any created “toys” can provide!
Paul David Tripp
1. Do you have a plan for Advent this year? If not, there’s no better time to create or find one than today, on December 1st! How will you focus on Christ this Christmas? What can you build into your calendar or routine to regularly meditate on Advent?
2. Identify a few examples of how culture and media preach a false or contrary Christmas narrative to you. What is the gospel response to these lies? Yet why is this false narrative tempting to believe or pursue?
3. What recent evidence have you given that reveals your heart is still prone to worship and idolize the creation? Are you trying to decorate your life with things that cannot satisfy? Be specific - what are those?
4. How can you enjoy these beautiful created things without having them rule your heart? Are you able to use them as a reminder to glorify God? Be practical in your response.
5. Who do you know who is lonely or isolated this Christmas? How can you reach out and show the love of Christ? How can you make this season more about giving than receiving?