Navigating the Christmas Season

I grew up before the GPS was ubiquitous in vehicles. And in our family, one of the greatest signs of weakness for my Dad was asking for directions. My father was often the driver and ‘always’ knew where he was going with my mom often riding shotgun. Dad would start the trip with directional certainty, only to have it dissipate as Mom would start to question his “directional authority” by pointing out landmarks that didn’t make sense. And if we didn’t arrive at the destination in the time allotted for the trip, tensions would often escalate. The shotgun questions would come more frequently and the driver retorts would get shorter and louder. Mom would ask, “Why don’t you just stop and ask?” and this is when we knew it really wasn’t going well. We all knew that, for our Dad, stopping to ask for directions was the very last resort.

Every year at this time of year, I feel the juxtaposition of living on this side of the second coming. Parts of the Christmas season seem like a trip going in the wrong direction. I want to enter into the festivities — and yet so much of it seems wrong and misguided. We start with the destination in mind: we want to get to the manger, to find our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We know where we want to go, but we often end up on the wrong route — a route that sends us somewhere that isn’t even close to our original destination. I make a wrong turn, I go right instead of left and end up at Costco or the Mall covered in glitter and tinsel. And now and again, in between the bites of delightful, festive food, I wonder if I am going to make it to Bethlehem on time. I want to sing the songs and to be at the center of the festive fun — but sometimes the fun spins me off course.

Thankfully, my Dad did have great directional sense; he had a sort of internal GPS that was pretty reliable. We often arrived at the right destination — and on time. As I navigate this Christmas season, I will have to rely on the GPS that is provided in the biblical story of Christmas. This story is full of wonder, full of glory and full of salvation. It has power, by the grace of God, to re-orient my heart and get me to the right place.

Merry Christmas.

Nathan Siebenga