So it must be true.
With nine days until Christmas one would expect us all to be knee deep in jingle belling, hearts all aglow, caroling in the snow, and an all-around feeling of Christmas cheer.
I’m not. Are you?
It seems Santa’s sack bulges with more than just presents. Dashing alongside our preparations are our expectations. We hope that some way, somehow our efforts will come out the other side magically transformed into dazzling wonders and treasured memories.
Unfortunately the switch to life’s troubles doesn’t get turned “off” come December. And for many, Christmas is bittersweet, if not downright disheartening. Against the backdrop of “required” glee burdens seem heavier. Losses greater. Sadness deeper. This Christmas, especially, I feel the pain of others as well as my own. I see lives profoundly marked by struggling marriages, ailing parents and lost children. I see the desperation of unemployment, depression and addiction. I see grief from death, cancer and poverty.
How do situations like these fit into the Norman Rockwell version of Christmas we have safely tucked away in our collective memories? Is Christmas still Christmas if it’s not marked with a sparkly tree? Or presents? Or parties? Or even peace?
Just look at Jesus’ birth. It wasn’t a prepared, produced, picture-perfect event. In fact, the first Christmas came with little fanfare, save a star in the sky. Think about it. We’re talking about God, the Creator of the universe. He could do anything. Anything. And He chose to enter the world helpless, tiny and weak. In the most humble of settings. Welcomed by smelly shepherds and smellier livestock. Emmanuel—God with us. Talk about magical transformation and dazzling wonder! Aren’t you blown away by this? I am.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,A new and glorious morn. How can we create a Christmas more amazing than the incarnation? Jesus didn’t come to heavy our load. He came to give rest to the weary. The brokenhearted. The downtrodden. For those in prison and those who mourn. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
This Christmas if you’re feeling a little (or a lot) less than, that’s OK. Christmas isn’t an event we pass or fail. It is a gift we behold and admire with awe. It’s one we receive, by choice. But to receive it, it’s not our houses, menus or Christmas cards we need to prepare—it’s our hearts.
Thankfully Jesus isn’t a seasonal item only available for a limited time, and He doesn’t get packed away with the rest of our Christmas things come January. No, the promise God sent to us in the manger lives as vibrantly on June 25 as December 25.
Emmanuel, God with us. What truly good news of great joy in this, and all, seasons.