Batteries Not Included

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

– Luke 2:10

Have you ever watched a child open a Christmas present that they were anticipating and full of excitement over? One that promised them endless possibilities for enjoyment? However, upon opening it, they discover that it requires something more. Batteries, and none are to be found. Quickly, expressions of joy fade into frustration, sadness, and all around depression.

It is a sad reality when what promised to bring joy, is now found powerless to do so.

In all honesty, this has become my view concerning the celebration of Christmas. I use that term celebration intentionally. I love what Christmas is, I have just become withdrawn in my heart from how it is celebrated. Here is the celebration that is supposed to be wrapped up in joy, even great joy to the whole earth, (Luke 2:10) yet it feels like it is celebrated so often with things that are joyless. It got me thinking this year on this question. Without Christ, where do people find joy to sing about or pursue at Christmas?

A few that I could think of are beautiful decorations, amazing light displays, presents to give and receive, celebrations and parties, time with family and friends, and charity. Sure, each of these things can put a smile on your face and a smile on another’s, and they should make us smile. However, you can have these things without Christmas. I also believe deep down inside we know these are not the source of great and all-satisfying joy in our lives.

Beautiful decor can make a room fun to be in, but time will coat it with dust and next year’s trends will make it look outdated. Christmas lights are always a pleasure to see, but they burn out and also create massive tangled messes to deal with. Presents rust, break, and fade from interest within minutes. Parties end, and for some with great regrets. When it comes to family and friends, we should enjoy them, but what of those who celebrate alone, remember lost loved ones, or wrestle with great discord in their family? Giving to the poor does great good for the giver and the receiver. Yet what of the other seasons of the year? Is this brotherly love the spirit of Christmas? Does it just come near winter, then our minds jettison the idea until we see snow again? Do the poor have to wait until then to have our concern and compassion?

Don’t get me wrong, all these celebrations can be wonderful and are good things to do, yet are they the source of joy? Great joy? For all the earth?

Every celebration in Christmas, though it may be fun and warm your heart, is like a toy labeled, “Batteries Not Included.” They promise fulfillment, yet are powerless to fill you with lasting joy. After Christmas, and many other holidays, people wrestle with post holiday depression. You now have debt and buyers regret to deal with, you’ve gained weight, the house is empty and silent again, and you have frustration that you didn’t get what you wanted, or you feel guilt that you didn’t give enough. The list can go on and on.

Christmas does not meet our heart’s need for decor, gifts, family time, or brotherly love and charity, because those things are not what our hearts need. However, the joy of Christmas is that God came down from heaven to meet our heart’s deepest need. A savior from our sin who can reunite us with God (1 Peter 3:18), and it is there my friend, that unending joy is found! (Psalm 16:11). Then it is out of that joy that we celebrate.

Christ is the joy of Christmas! Every celebration of Christmas is joyless if it is not flowing from and pointing you to the source of true joy. However, when you root every celebration and act in Christ, you will find it can overflow with great joy. Let your gift giving, parties, decorations, charity, proclaim one resounding anthem. Christ has come to bring us life!

So this Christmas, I plead with you to look at God and his holiness, then look at yourself and see your sin. Look at the manger and see his gift. Look at the cross and see his sacrifice. Look at the empty tomb and see his victory, and then find great joy in calling him Lord!