By Kate Borders | Sr. Project Director
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” - Isaiah 7:14
‘All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).’ - Matthew 1:22-23
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” - John 1:1-4,14
I enjoy getting excited about Christmas, yet my heart is heavy for all those who won’t have the opportunity for joyful celebrations; the struggles of life don’t take a break for the holidays. How do I, as a North-American follower of Christ, celebrate Christmas in a way the honors Christ and also honors my brothers and sisters around the world who are spending themselves to care for children in need?
I remember when I was 18 years old, a freshman at Wheaton College, and the Lord was starting to open my eyes to what life is like around the world, and particularly how many children are suffering. That year when I tried to shop for Christmas, the crowds overwhelmed me, a mother yelling at her children devastated me, and I ended up back home at my parents’ house sobbing, because I felt like the masses of people at the mall were completely missing the point. No one was thinking about Christ. They were stressed rather than excited about getting gifts for their loved ones, and they were not thankful for the fact that they were safe and had the means to shop.
For years, although I enjoyed the time with my family, I really struggled with how to balance the commercialism and consumerism of Christmas in America with the reality of all the people who are suffering and not able to enjoy Christmas. As a follower of Christ, how should I think about that? How should I approach Christmas?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but after almost 15 years of wrestling with the questions and thinking about how I’ll approach Christmas with my own daughter, these are my thoughts:
- Gift giving is biblical. All throughout scripture, the old and new testament, God is pleased when people honor one another and honor Him with lavish gift giving. Do we have to be careful? Sure. It’s easy to get carried away and have our focus be cultural rather than biblical. But it can also be a wonderful thing to have a special time each year to intentionally honor those we love by giving them gifts.
- Scripture is clear that as humans we need to remember and be reminded. In the Old Testament, God told His people to have stones and places of remembrance, and He commanded them to celebrate things year after year. Why? Because He knows our tendency to stray and to forget. So yes, the commercialism and consumerism of Christmas in America is a challenge for Christians, and we have to be intentional about celebrating in a way that honors Christ. But, it is a wonderful thing to have a time each year where we stop and remember, to remind ourselves of what it means that the Father sent the Son, that He was born as a baby...
- And why do we need to be reminded that Christ was born? Because it changes everything. Immanuel, God is with us! “The Word was with God, and the Word was God....and He came to be with us! Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind....” Because Christ came, we have life. He made the way for us to be acceptable to The Father, for us to be sons and daughters of The Most High God. That truth affects every moment of every day. May Christmas be a time to celebrate that and to remind us of the awesomeness of the Gospel.
As I think about our World Orphans partners around the world, likely weary from the struggles of caring in the midst of suffering, and likely without the means for the festive celebrations many of us in the US will enjoy, I pray they are overjoyed by the reminder that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. I pray they are encouraged as they remember that in Him is life, and that His life is the light of all mankind. And I pray they will know immeasurable blessing because they are reflecting that light as they care for those in need.