There are a lot of reasons to be cranky on Christmas. It can be one of the busiest times of the year, with the pressure to get the perfect gift for your loved ones, the endless travel to church and school events, and the seeming de-Christianization of Christmas by the prevailing culture.
And yet none of these things should be allowed to steal our joy, especially for those of us who follow Jesus. In fact, Christmas should be the most joyous time of the year for the Christian, because it is our story the world is trying to tell.
Rather than get frustrated with another “happy holidays” greeting from the checkout lady, why not allow your Christmas joy to be so contagious that they ask you why you are smiling? Rather than complain about another holiday recital at your kids’ school, why not use the opportunity for outreach and friendship-building among people who desperately need to hear about the baby in the manger? Rather than airing your holiday grievances on social media, why not spend time in solitude and prayer in gratitude for God’s sending of Jesus?
Christians should be the most joyful on Christmas because we own the Christmas story. It is our story. It is us whom Jesus came to earth to redeem from the curse. It is our hearts He has chosen to regenerate. It is our world He is making new.
What’s more, Jesus came into a world not unlike ours, a world torn by war, disease, and religious strife. The Christmas story is both violent and peaceful. It’s the story of the violent and unjust death of the incarnate Son and the peace Jesus makes possible between God and man. Jesus life, death, and resurrection overthrow the evil powers and signal the dawning of a new kingdom and a new covenant between God and man.
This is why the richest, most theologically beautiful songs are the ones we sing at Christmas time. Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Stop and think of the story these songs are telling. I find it fascinating to hear artists from a variety of religious perspectives sing them. I often wonder if they really know what they are singing. I feel the same way when I hear them played in department stores. I wonder to myself, do the shoppers in here really understand what is being sung?
But then I realize that the world of Jesus’ time didn’t much understand what Jesus was saying either. The religious sages, the rulers of the day—they ignored the miraculous birth in a Bethlehem cattle trough. Only outsiders—kings from the East—and lowly shepherds—understood. So it is today. Ironically, the world benefits from the world-shaking movement that originated from that manger but hardly recognizes the Christ of Christmas.
This is why God has called every generation of His people to tell the story anew. We are the ones God is calling to share the gospel story to a world thirsting for a Savior. So let’s do it with joy, not with anger. Let’s engage people as people and not enemies. And let’s wear the smile of Christmas on our faces.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). He is a regular contributor to Leadership Journal and the author of several books, including his latest, Activist Faith. He regularly blogs at danieldarling.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDarling.