Sitting in the glow of the Christmas lights with my coffee this morning my brain felt all warm and sleepy and completely devoid of any coherent thought. As the sun rose outside my windows though and I was reading through some Christmas devotionals my thoughts began assembling themselves into two streams of consciousness that stem from this question. What kind of Christmas are you preparing for?
A holly-jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year…
This year we have been checking off one holiday tradition after another and making some new ones up along the way in the building of our Christmas. It isn’t just one day, but an entire season in our home. The gingerbread houses have been constructed. The children’s Christmas pageant at church was sweet and full of angels and shepherds and songs to lift your spirits. We have been to two band concerts, a piano recital, played the Christmas light game (an entertaining but competitive way to pass the time in the car at night.) We have seen Santa and already enjoyed lots and lots of good food and plenty of delicious desserts with more on the horizon as this week unfolds. Christmas seasons like this make it easy to feel wrapped up in God’s love, to see His blessings surrounding you, to stand in church and belt out Joy to the World and mean it. Your soul is “amening” the beautifully written bible verses of the season and you have grabbed a hold of each and every promise that was made and kept by God. This is Christmas, a time to celebrate!
Maybe you are bracing for a tough Christmas. The promise of Great Joy that the angels made to the shepherds feels like it passed you over and there isn’t much joy in sight this Christmas. The fact is it’s been a rough year for many and there’s not much joy in sight this Christmas. Sadness and hurt are all we see. I understand that.There have been years when these same songs and promises of peace and love and joy felt like an assault on my senses. I have stood with empty arms on Christmas morning, missing the baby that was supposed to be cradled there. The year that my grandfather passed away just weeks before Christmas made each tradition, song, church service, painful reminders of the hole that was left in his absence. The shadow of disease, and the absence of a diagnosis, overshadowed one season with a cloud of fear. In these seasons of life it felt like joy had given up on me. No matter how hard I tried, and pretended for the sake of those around me I just couldn’t convince myself deep down. Two sides to every coin right? I get it if you are barely holding it together, swallowing the tears, suppressing the pain because those things do not a Merry Christmas make. But they are in fact a reality.
The miracle of Christmas is that your story isn’t over. God is not indifferent to our pain. In fact, He left eternity and came to earth to show how much he cares. He came to live with us and die for us. Your story of mistakes, sadness, shame, and hurt, my story of grief and fear, are erased and re-written by God’s unmerited love. This Christmas, if you are looking for peace, for joy, for love, you’ll find it in Jesus because He is the promise. When you take God at His word, when you reach out and grab a hold of His promises, believing it even when you aren’t feeling it, a beautiful change of heart will begin to happen. The facade of pain and hurt will begin to crack and fade away in the glory of the love of The One they call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Immanuel – God with us. There is hope and I would love nothing more than for you to grab a hold of that gift this Christmas.
A tale of two Christmases, a testament to the seasons of life. No matter where you find yourself this season, this story, This Gift is for you. I bring you good news of great joy. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, straight from Jesus himself. For God so loved you and me that He sent His son to be born and die in our broken world for our brokenness as the Ultimate Gift.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:8-11)