By Mike Mazyck
Last year, sometime in early December, as I was reflecting on the upcoming Christmas season, a very radical idea crossed my mind. It was a bold and sacrificial idea. Something very spiritual. Being the great saint that I am, I knew I would have to take action on it as soon as it hit me. In that moment, I made a daring and courageous decision. I decided that on Christmas morning, the Birthday of my Savior before we ravaged through the piles of presents, we would do something we had never done before on Christmas morning. We would start a new tradition: We would pray! Oh, yes! What a grand and righteous idea this was! That’s right. Before opening all the lavish and excessive gifts that we would shower upon each other — on HIS birthday — I decided to do something crazy: I would lead my family in prayer! What a beautiful sacrifice this would be.
I assume you can sense the sarcasm in my words. The truth is that I was grieved by this idea when it crossed my mind. This “new idea” was a gentle prick from the Holy Spirit regarding something much deeper. I was grieved because it was so obvious, and yet I had missed it for so long. How could I have failed to do something so simple — so fundamental? I hadn’t just failed to do it though. I didn’t even see it. I was completely blind.
For the last twenty-one years, as a professing believer in Christ and so-called spiritual leader to my family, I somehow managed to wake up on His birthday and not even mention His name to my wife and children — not even a simple prayer of gratitude. For twenty-one years, we would rise early, completely self-absorbed, tear open a pile of gifts, and go on about our day. And then we would all claim we actually celebrated “Christ”mas. What a sham! It wasn’t my family’s fault, it was mine. I was the one who had taken the “Christ out of Christmas.” I had completely forgotten about Him. He was there in the room every one of those Christmas mornings, watching us from a quiet and lonely corner. He received no invitation to His own party. It was another painful reminder of how I had failed as the spiritual leader of my household.
It was not only a reminder of my failure as a spiritual leader, but it was also a reminder of my hypocrisy. Once again in my life, I looked in the mirror, only to see a giant log in my eye; because I am one of those Christians who gets angry about what Christmas has become in America. I don’t know that this holy day could be any further from what Christ would have intended it to be. We have totally corrupted His birthday. We’ve literally taken what should be a season of quietness, prayer, reflection, and meditation upon His Word and twisted the entire thing inside out. We celebrate Him with a season of mass materialism, greed, anxiety, debt, busyness, and chaos. Instead of bringing Him gifts on His birthday — by caring for the orphans, widows, and those in need — we instead shower gifts upon ourselves. We know it’s all wrong! Our conscience convicts us.
For years, the righteous anger has welled up within me as I looked upon what everyone (else) had done to this holiday. But as I reflected on how I missed something so obvious; the Holy Spirit gave me that gentle nudge to look in the mirror. I saw a man — a “Christian” man — that has been part of the problem. A man who let his family get caught up in the traditions of men and the rituals of this world. I saw a man who had been a coward rather than a leader. A man who forgot about Jesus — on His birthday! Even now, as I type this, my heart breaks.
That simple revelation — to pray before opening presents — marked the beginning of something much bigger for our family. It marked a shift in the way we celebrate Christmas. Instead of looking around and telling everyone how disappointed I was in what this season had become, I would look inward — at myself, my family, and my home!
Along with a Christmas morning prayer, several other ideas immediately came to mind, including some new traditions to implement. Every year at Christmas time, we have a large gathering with our extended family. And while I was very anxious at first, as this was a deviation from the expected pattern that had been established for so long, I asked the group if I could read some passages of scripture and pray before we began our “Secret Santa” exchange. No long-winded sermon, just a short, heartfelt devotional of thanks and gratitude for all the Lord had done for us throughout the year. Yes, I was nervous, but guess what? Everyone loved it, and we are all excited to continue this new tradition in the coming years.
I know these are only small changes. But they are significant in my heart. They represent a new path — a new trajectory. Naturally, I cannot change everything at once. The thought of that is overwhelming. There is simply too much that needs to be unwound, and I will need the help of the Holy Spirit for many of those things.
But here is what I can do: I can implement one or two small changes or new traditions each year. Over time, with the help of the Holy Spirit, these changes will add up, and they will radically transform what the entire Christmas season looks like in our home. My prayer is that one day, others will see an entirely different version of Christmas in our home! Maybe they will see a version that doesn’t make any sense to them! A version that is perplexing and peculiar. Isn’t that what we are called to be — radically different? Isn’t that more exciting?
I know I must travel this new road even if my family and I are the only ones on it. But it would be so much more powerful if we did it together! Will you consider taking this journey with me? What if we could all, together, lead a silent rebellion in our own homes against the pattern of this world and the secular traditions of men? What if we could slowly and methodically take back Christmas? I think this is what He wants for His birthday!
To read more of Mike’s writing, visit his blog at MikeMazyck.com.