Nearer, My God, to Thee

Many Filipino homes, even the humble ones, start decorating for Christmas as early as September. Like the heavily-decorated Christmas tree, the house, both inside and outside, will soon be smothered with decor in all shapes, sizes, and colors, too. Prettily-wrapped gifts will start accumulating under the Christmas tree. I’ve seen photos of mountains of Christmas gifts taking up most of the living room. Most Filipino families, whether they can afford it or not, like to lavish their children with gifts on Christmas. It is during this season that purses seem to have no bottom, “shop ’til you drop” becomes the byword, and malls run over with droves of shoppers.


These Christmas traditions the world knows so well. Our young family is part of this, too. It’s not only the world around our children which has influenced their affections toward a materialistic Christmas. I admit, we as parents have brought about that, too. I sigh now as I see how difficult it will be to change that.

Why do people want to start Christmas early? Is it because they are so hungry for the Messiah they can hardly wait to celebrate His birthday? Or do they want to lengthen the season just to hold onto the magic of merrymaking? For there’s a certain thrill that the Christmas season brings, we can’t deny that. When I was a child, whenever I heard our Ray Conniff Christmas album being played, I would be enveloped with indescribable excitement and happiness. I knew then that it was Christmas. I could feel it. I could inhale it. I could even taste it! Such are the joys Christmas brings to children. And I know, adults would want to capture that, too.

That’s why they want to put up the Christmas tree early.

So, do we pursue the Savior or the magic? If we are honest enough, most of us have set up the pedestal of Christmas tradition higher than the Lord Jesus Himself. For He is there, cradled in a lowly manger. And we miss Him. And His will.

Nowadays, I often wonder: What does the Lord think of our Christmasing? Of the lavish Christmas tree sparkling with expensive ornaments? Of the Christmas table laden with feast fit for a king? Or maybe the rich man’s table where Lazarus waited for crumbs?

I really want to know how the Messiah, who, via an angel, invited poor shepherds to His birth, sees our celebration of it.

I think He just wants us to know and receive His gift – how precious, how all-important it is:

 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:11, 14)

Maybe we should ask ourselves these questions: Does every ornament we hang on the tree, on the door, on the window, on the stairs railing, bring us closer to the manger? Is every gift we wrap a step closer to it? Does our Christmas draw us nearer to the God in the manger, the Immanuel?

Does our Christmas still have Christ in it? The very front and center, meaning, and reason of it? Or have we X-ed Him, not only on the banners we hang but on the banners of our hearts? (No, not because we don’t like Him in it, but because we have lost Him in the thick of the hustle and bustle of a hectic Christmas. What with all the decorating, planning, baking and cooking, parties, shopping expeditions, and travels we do). Is Christ, pure and simple, at the heart of our Christmas? Would we still feel full even if we hadn’t completed the decoration; hadn’t baked all the breads, pies, and cookies we had planned; hadn’t bought and received all the gifts we wanted; hadn’t traveled?

The question really is: Is Jesus ever enough for us? On Christmas and beyond?

The truth is, He is really more than enough.

If we are true Christ-followers, He is always in our hearts no matter the season. In fact, he dwells there. He is not only the reason for the season, he is the reason for life itself! Every plan, every step, every endeavor, every trial must be a step nearer to God. Then, Christmas for us is not only in December (or September, October, November), but every single day of the year!

Friends, may our Christmas find us gathered around the manger where our Savior is. May we behold His glory and never get tired to give thanks for His gift: the gift of salvation. May we always remember the perfectness, the beauty of His gifts: great joy, peace, goodwill [an attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence; a good relationship] to us all! That it is only through Him that we could find these exceedingly wonderful blessings and not through the things we possess and fuss about. Jesus is the gift.

So with this in mind, may all our activities bring us ever closer to Him, worshiping Him with all our beings through them.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

May the light of the Lord Jesus Christ shine ever brighter in our lives than all the Christmas lights and stars combined.

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Journey with Jesus,