There’s a Christmas song on Kinship Radio by Toby Mac I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve been listening at all. It’s called “Christmas This Year,” and in it Mac evokes that image of being ten years old and rushing to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning with all the joy and anticipation and excitement of being a kid at Christmas.
As adults, we often complain about the commercialization and materialism of Christmas but, if we’re honest with ourselves, what we’re really saying is we miss the magic of Christmas.
And to be honest, calling the Christmas Spirit “magic” is kind of part of the problem.
Sure, when I was a kid I eagerly anticipated those gifts under the tree, whether I was sure it was a new BB gun, a mad scientist kit (I don’t think Mom and Dad ever actually got me a kit capable of blowing up the world, but hey, a kid can dream.) or a brand new bike. Yes, as a kid I was all about the stuff. I was as materialistic as any kid on my block, the city, or the world. But, even as a kid, I was aware of the magic. It was all about Jesus being born in a stable. The songs on the radio, the nativity scenes, and the things they talked about in church were about Jesus.
I got it.
Jesus came to earth. And He did it because God loves us. God loves me.
For a ten year-old, God loving the rotten little kid who wouldn’t eat his peas was magical. Yes, maybe the actual, correct theological phrase was “the miracle of grace” but that’s a concept that was over my head at the time.
It’s still over my head.
I may eat my peas now, but I am most certainly not any more worthy of salvation and a relationship with God than when I fought taking a bath or going to bed at 9:00 p.m.
Even that whole, warped, works-righteousness heresy about earning toys from Santa didn’t work on me. Sure, adults told me time after time that Santa’s elves were watching me (The creepiness of which was not lost on me.) and if I wasn’t a good little boy, I’d get a lump of coal for Christmas. I heard them just fine, but I also knew that bully Johnny Smith down the street was an absolute terror and he’d never gotten a lump of coal for Christmas. In point of fact, I’d never known of a single kid anywhere who ever got a lump of coal for Christmas. To this day, I’ve never even seen a lump of coal.
Absolutely every kid I knew got a present from Santa at Christmas. No matter how much we were threatened with that pitch-black hunk of mineral from deep inside the earth that burned so very hot, we all got the gift of something that tangibly showed we were loved –even though not one of us deserved it.
Despite all that and in the middle of all of that, there was indeed a Christmas Spirit. As self-centered, greedy, and rotten as I was, the love that was present at Christmas was undeniable. It was present in the family. The cheer and the joy was not fake. People all around me were nicer to each other. Love was in the air.
I may have thought of it as “magic,” but the Holy Spirit of Jesus does indeed move a little more powerfully at Christmas.
And the thing about the Toby Mac song is that even though he’s an excellent singer, the part of the song that swells my heart, that makes my eyes go a little bit moist, that evokes the magic of Christmas is not his voice –it’s that chorus of children singing:
“Holy Holy holy
God is coming near
Unto us a Savior’s born
On a midnight clear.”
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (NIV)