Every year at Christmas, we watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. The songs are a bit cheesy and more than a bit dated, but the story is sweet and funny, and my kids love it. Best of all, it stays surprisingly true to the text and spirit of Dickens’s masterpiece and includes quite a few direct quotes from the book.
Other than Tiny Tim’s iconic, “God bless us, every one,” probably the most well known Christmas Carol quote occurs when Scrooge fiiiiiiiiinally “gets it” and declares: “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year!”
But wait. Why am I doing a Christmas post when 2014 is less than 18 hours away?
Because I can think of no better New Year’s resolution than keeping Christmas in my heart all the year.
After all, Christmas is not actually about new bikes and designer purses. It’s not about Santa and his elves. It’s not even about a time when the world is maybe just a little bit kinder and gentler place (is it really, though?).
It’s about Jesus, the Christ.
It’s about the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us and gave words like these flesh too:
Emmanuel. Not distant and cold but near and more real than the warm blood that pulses through our veins. God with us, coming down in the midst of our sticky apple juice floors, bankrupt finances, shattered marriages, grief for a lost child, and bitter feuds.
Even though he didn’t have to. Even though he could have stayed in heaven on his throne and left us wallowing in our sin and despair. Even though heaven come down to earth in the form of a babe lying on a prickly bed of hay is so radical and strange that most of the scholars anxiously awaiting their Messiah couldn’t recognize him in the rumpled, red face of a newborn. Even though dwelling among us meant that he would one day die a violent, bloody, excruciating death among thieves.
Yes, Christmas is about love and joy and generosity and peace, and I certainly want those in my heart year-round.
But it’s also about pain and sacrifice and taking up your cross.
Because Jesus was born to die for our sins. And then rise again. There’s the true joy. There’s the gospel, the extravagant good news of Christmas. And life. And eternity.
Jesus was born to save us all.
Of course, if I simply try to keep Christmas in my heart all the year, I will fail. Miserably. I will get distracted and absentminded. I will become overwhelmed and bogged down in the cares of life. I will be snippy and tart and and selfish and just plain mean. I know because I did all of those things at certain points during the much-lauded “most wonderful time of the year.”
I know because I’m fighting them today when my children interrupt my writing to make audacious requests for milk and lunch and more toilet paper.
Thank God there’s more good news: because of Jesus in me, I already have Christmas in my heart, today and every day.
I know it. And yet I forget.
So, this year, I want to remember like no other year before it. To wake up each day with Christmas in my heart because the God of the universe donned a cloak heavy with every trapping of humanity to become the Savior of the world.
I have a laundry list of specific things I’d like to accomplish in 2014. But they all fade to nothing next to these two commandments:
That’s Christmas. That’s Jesus. And that is my heart’s desire for this new year.