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Downsizing Christmas


Have you thought of downsizing? It might sound a little negative. Advertisers and even our own nature suggest to us that more is better. However, downsizing has become trendy. Baby boomers who no longer need a large house and a garage filled with lawn equipment and sports gear are getting rid of all their extra “stuff” and moving into a more-manageable apartment or condo. Downsizing enables them to find the things that really matter without digging through musty attics and dark closets. With less upkeep around the house, they have time for visiting the grandkids and traveling to new places. And it’s not just for seniors. Most of us, I think, would find that downsizing has a definite upside.

Have you ever thought about downsizing Christmas?

Maybe it’s time. Over the years we have accumulated all kinds of Christmas traditions—from finding the perfect Christmas tree and lighting the house inside and out to buying gifts, sending cards, and preparing special cookies and other treats. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. Many fond memories are attached to them. Still, a little downsizing might be in order so that we have the time and energy for what truly makes Christmas worth celebrating.

If your mind is in a constant state of overload trying to stay ahead of and manage all the details of Christmas traditions, it will be difficult to give thought to the Lord’s call to prepare for Christ’s birth through recognizing and repenting of our sin. Downsizing the demands we impose upon ourselves can provide some breathing room to clear out the clutter in our hearts and hear John the Baptist call, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Matthew 3:3 NIV84)

Who doesn’t enjoy getting together with friends during this season?

But if social engagements keep us too busy or exhausted to make it to midweek Advent services, a little downsizing could pr ovide opportunity to spend quality time with the Lord, Who once gently reprimanded a close friend, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV84)

It is an expression of love to exchange gifts with family and friends, but if the hunt for just the right gift for Uncle Bob overshadows God’s perfect gift of His Son to the world, then downsize. Cut the size of the list or instead of purchasing a gift, write a note sharing the exciting news of God-made-man, born of a virgin and laid in the manger.

The traditions in our lives are treasured ways of observing Christmas, but they are not Christmas itself. Christmas is not about what we do, but rather all about what God has done for mankind. Over the course of four millennia, He never forgot His promise to send the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head and rescue sinners from eternal death. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV84)

May we never forget what really matters. Let’s appreciate the traditions, but at the same time, let’s not hesitate to do some downsizing as needed. The upside is seeing the Savior all the more clearly as the source of our salvation and the reason for celebration all year long!

Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.