I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David as Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ the Lord.

The gospel stands at the very center of Christmas.  The trouble is we Christians have forgotten what the gospel is and because we’ve lost the gospel, we’ve lost Christmas.

The gospel is not advice.  It is not a warning to shape up. You know the song, “he sees when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he know if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”  (This may have some limited effectiveness in getting kids to shape up, but as much as I wish it otherwise, it has nothing to do with the gospel.)

The gospel is not about working yourself into a frenzy to create the perfect memory for your family. In my opinion this is the saddest one. The gospel is about grace, unmerited favor, and yet somehow we take the holiday that celebrates God’s grace and turn it into a holiday that literally enslaves us.  We put in hours of work. We get stressed, tired, angry, and frustrated.  Didn’t God send Jesus to liberate us from being perfect? Isn’t God capable of creating for us beautiful Christmas memories even if we can’t find the perfect gift or we can’t find the time to prepare the perfect meal? How many times have you purchased an expensive gift only to watch your kids toss the toy aside, turn the box into a bobsled and play “olympics” down the stairs.

The gospel frees us from the endless pursuit of perfection. It is resting in God’s perfection. It is a celebration of what God has done for us, when would not and could not do it for ourselves. The gospel is good news! That’s it. That’s what Christmas is about. It is the announcement of a birth that has changed the course of history for good.  It is the story of God reaching down to us when we were incapable of reaching up to him. The heart of Christmas is the story of God graciously breaking into our world. Christmas is about what God did for us.

Luke 2:8-11 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news [gospel] of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David Savior has been born to you; he is Christ [Messiah], the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I am going to pray really hard this year, that the joy and the good news of Christmas does not get drowned out in the noise of Christmas parties, shopping, and the stress of making everything perfect. Christmas is not about what we do, it is about what Christ has done and taking the time to enjoy it.

Sprinkled throughout the day, will be flashes of God’s grace all around you. The joy of having your family with you. The look of unspoiled delight and wonder on your child’s face. The feasting. As a parent, take inventory of all that the ways that God has been gracious to you. Ask God for a grateful heart as you roll out of bed at 4:30 AM.

Then, find some time in all the madness to stop everyone and have them listen to the story.  Our family likes to read Luke 1:5-2:12 and Matthew 1:18-2:12. Tell them that this is the story of what God for us.  Have them listen for the good news in the story and the reading is finished, discuss the good news as a family.

May Jesus break into the hearts of our family, just as he broke into our world 2000 years ago.

Merry Christmas.