Two weeks ago, millions of people around the world celebrated Christmas. People adorned Christmas trees with family heirlooms, prepared lavish meals to be savored by family and friends, and shared personally selected gifts with loved ones. For some people, Christmas preparations began months in advance, ensuring that every single ornament was hanging on the precise branch, while simultaneously making sure the cookies would have the perfect ratio of sprinkles to frosting. Yet for many of those who once looked forward to this splendid holiday, they were disappointed on December 26th. Why? Christmas did not live up to their high expectations. For others, the idea that the holidays were over was a letdown of monumental proportions. But as someone once said, all good things must come to an end. But does Christmas truly have to end? Is there a reason we cannot keep Christmas in our hearts all year long?

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. My Dad and I leave our Christmas decorations up until after February 7th, my Mom’s birthday. She always loved Christmas and wanted to enjoy the decorations a little bit longer. Although she passed away nine years ago, we continue this tradition in her honor. As much as I love the warm, inviting glow of the Christmas lights in our living room, keeping our Christmas tree around a little longer is certainly a welcome sight.

Over the holidays, I love the fact you can go into almost any store or restaurant and hear the classic carols of Christmas sounding forth on the loudspeakers. Christmas garland adorns most every window frame and beautifully decorated trees seem to sprout from nearly every corner. It seems like nothing can dampen the Christmas spirit, as individuals smile a little wider, give more generously, and love even deeper. Even so, there is one aspect of Christmas that makes everything else seem insignificant. The most important part of Christmas is the birthday of the King.

Through the years, Christmas has taken on a myriad of definitions. There are nearly as many Christmas traditions and ideals as there are stars in the sky. There’s the Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines, the Yule Lads of Iceland, the Christmas Markets in Europe, and so many other holiday celebrations around the world. From Frosty the Snowman to Santa’s reindeer, people have been creating Christmas characters for many a decade. Not to mention the traditional sugary treats, such as gingerbread houses, Yule logs, and candy canes. Although these things are all very festive, the real meaning of Christmas often becomes lost in the holiday shuffle.

Instead of keeping Christ at the center of Christmas, the baby Jesus figurine in the manger repeatedly gets placed on the proverbial shelf, if you will, with everyone and everything else. But if we focus on the true reason for Christmas, it will become clear that baby Jesus does not belong next to the Elf on the Shelf. Once we begin to grasp the magnitude of the birth of Jesus Christ, we will realize the First Christmas is not just another story. The birth of Jesus changed the world forever.

A little over two thousand years ago, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field and said, “‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12). This great joy for all people extends to you and me. Without the birth of Jesus, we would never be able to realize true joy. This kind of joy is not to be compared with the happiness of purchasing a new car or sitting down to a delightful meal. The joy the angels spoke of is unspeakable joy, a kind of joy that will last eternally. The birth of Jesus brings everlasting joy, unending peace, and eternal hope.

Jesus did not come to earth, so we could wish him happy birthday once a year and pack Him away with the glass ornaments and table linens. He came to earth, so we could have a road to redemption. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). God knew it would take a perfect sacrifice to wash away our sins. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, grew up to be crucified for our sins (see John 3:16). Because of the sacrifice He made on Calvary, we can receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus came to give us abundant life, so shouldn’t we worship and adore Him 365 days a year?

Granted, many people have already taken down their Christmas decorations. Their fragile ornaments have been carefully wrapped and the lights have been painstakingly and strategically placed in a box, with the hopes that they will not come out in one tangled bundle this coming holiday season. Most of the Christmas goodies have been eaten, save a few stray cookies, boxes of candy, and leftovers in the freezer. Christmas apparel is stowed away until it is deemed “close enough to Christmas” to wear them once again. While someone may call the fashion police if we wear our fancy Christmas sweater during the spring or summer months, there is no reason we cannot wear Christmas in our hearts all year through.

Will you join me in keeping Christmas all year long in 2018? Let us thank God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). He sent His only Son to be born in humble beginnings, so He could reign as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As the new Christmas song my Dad wrote says, “If it wasn’t for that baby, forever we’d be lost.” Jesus Christ brought salvation to the world. Christmas is not just another date on the calendar, but the birthday of the King. Let us spend every single day of the year, glorifying the name above all names, Jesus Christ!