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Have you ever eaten lots of “junk” and sugary stuff to the point that the next time you feel hungry you crave real food – meat and potatoes, home cooked, hot, delicious and nutritious real food?

That’s a pretty good description of how I feel (the feeling seems to have grown in the last few years) when I watch some of the Christmas shows and movies on TV or hear some of the songs that are played over the Muzak at work.  Not bad, not offensive, just no real substance.  There is that one song that for some reason makes me want to shoot the speakers with a BB gun.  You may have heard it, “last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away. This year to save me from tears I’ll give it to someone special…”  It kind of sets my teeth on edge.

For me it’s not enough to say Christmas is about children, snow, cookies, Santa, shopping, giving gifts, or about family, or about being kind, or about helping homeless or needy people.  Those are all good things but there’s so much more.

I feel a suppressed frustration, almost anger, that the meaning of Christmas has been diluted so much by some in our culture.  To cut Jesus out of Christmas for me is like asking me to survive on a diet of nothing but marshmallow fluff.
 Anymore it’s almost like He wasn’t ever part of Christmas, like He’s been covered up by a pile of reindeer, snowmen, nutcrackers and numerous other wintry characters all over store shelves and in TV specials.   Again, I enjoy fun stories and cute things, but there’s just so much more to be glad about.

If after I had a baby at a hospital my friends and family were downstairs partying about the fact that the hospital cafeteria is now serving burritos wrapped in pink and blue wrappers, I’d be confused to say the least.  Uh, I just had a BABY.  Hello!  There’s new life here!  A burrito is tasty but it doesn’t even compare to the joy and promise of a newborn baby.

This afternoon I had the privilege of hearing the Peoria Area Civic Chorale in concert.  What a treat!  The entire first half was filled with songs about the Christ child: old songs in latin, carols from centuries past, spirituals, a song in Spanish and even one from Africa with djembe drums.  There were some other traditional Christmas songs like “White Christmas”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and more, as well.  The auditorium was dark aside from trees with white lights and since many of the songs were a cappella or accompanied by a harp or just piano, the atmosphere was still, peaceful and lovely.

At the end of the concert, the conductor had us all stand to sing “The First Noel” a cappella with the choir.  He faced us and lead us through two verses and then into the song “Silent Night.”  The sound of all our voices together filled my ears and heart so that I had to stop singing.  Tears welled up in my eyes and when I looked up at the conductor, it seemed the same had happened to him.  There he stood with the beautiful choir behind him and the beautiful voices of the audience in front of him, “glories stream from heaven above, heavenly hosts sing ‘alleluia,’ Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.”  He had stopped singing and just stood there smiling with eyes closed, listening.

You can have the decorations, the shopping, even the cookies, but let me keep Jesus.  Don’t ask me to survive on nothing but kind thoughts and good cheer.  Those are good but fade away in time.  Presents wear out, parties end, food gets eaten, family goes back home, time keeps passing.

Those who entertain lavishly, or shop excessively, or have Hallmark Channel expectations for their get-togethers may afterward sense something is still missing.  There’s an empty space that none of that other stuff filled, at least not completely.  There is no substitute for Jesus, no meaning or reason for Christmas that will last or mean as much as He does.

Let me celebrate the baby whose tiny hand reached all the way to where I am to offer friendship with God, forgiveness, love, lasting joy and real peace.  That’s what Christmas is about.  That’s substantial.  That’s what people are truly longing for, deep in their hearts.  That’s meat and potatoes I can live on now and forever.

Give me Jesus.

Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven’s making.  ~Leigh Hunt

(thank you to my friend Sheri for the “tiny hand” thought)