I am a sucker for this time of year. I get butterflies whenever I listen to, “Carol of the Bells”, for the first time come November something (because it’s never after Thanksgiving, despite strong encouragement from the man of our house). I love the decorations, the traditions, the delicious food, the hustle and bustle, the giving and receiving… it’s such a special season. But, I also love CHRISTmas. And, on this CHRISTmas eve, I want to remind myself, remind us all, that while those things are wonderful, they are not, “the reason for the season”, as the saying goes. In fact, they are not CHRISTmas at all. When the store clerk says in a politically correct manner, “Have a Happy Holiday!” I do not get offended; for you see, the holidays are universal. CHRISTmas however, is a whole different ballgame. And, while November and December can be dedicated to the traditional merriment, decorations, and cheer; CHRISTmas in itself is much, much more.
This reminder, this re-focus if you will, came much sooner than the birth of our girls. It started when I fell in love and married a medical student. I knew right then and there that this year after year traditional mindset was going to have to be stretched. We were not going to be able to celebrate holidays with both, sometimes even one, side of our families every year. In fact, we have spent most of our Thanksgivings and CHRISTmases right here in Alabama, usually with friends who ended up with the same schedules in the same boat. And, you know what? While I have missed all the things that make the holidays feel comfortable and familiar, I do believe I have gained the priceless gift of remembering why we celebrate.
Friends, I am here to give us a gentle reminder that if today and tomorrow are about family, friends, gifts, traditions, and merriment, we are missing out. If tonight is the one out of two times that you enter into a church building within the year, while I’m sincerely happy you are going, to put it bluntly, you just aren’t fully receiving the benefits that have been offered. You see, Christ didn’t come down to earth for us to light a candle and sing a song in unison one or two days out of the year. Christ came so that He could make His way into our hearts. He did not come to be spoken of in our homes in honor of a cultural holiday; He came to save us from those temporary things we often find ourselves fixating on throughout this season we tie to His birth. And, if we just peer our eyes onto the babe in the manger, we are only getting one piece of a much bigger puzzle. For you see, the miracle of CHRISTmas is that not only did God Himself come as a babe in a manger; He grew up, perfect, sinless God-man, and died on a cross so that we could be with Him throughout all eternity. We cannot look at the baby in Bethlehem and rejoice unless we see His second coming as the purpose behind the birth.
This year, I see so many around us struggling, both that I know and do not know. Cancer, memories of loved ones gone too soon, miscarriages of babies already loved, abuse, death, sickness, divorce….the list goes on and on. And, if we aren’t careful, we can forget that the true meaning of CHRISTmas is much more connected to these things, these things we suffer, than the things underneath the tree. The true hope is that in light of Christ’s birth, we can look to a God who is making all things new. THIS is why we celebrate. This is way, no matter what our current circumstances are, we can rejoice: Because the rejoicing has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.
These expectations we so often speak of had to be felt in the manger that day. A king, coming in the form of a baby and essentially being kicked out of the inn because there was no room. No palace, no strength displayed in those moments, but holy all the same. As God looked down on His Son that day, knowing what was to come, knowing what the birth truly represented, I can imagine that joy stemmed from His sovereign knowledge that through His Son, He was going to make all things right.
Tomorrow, we too will listen to the typical songs, eat traditional food, open way too many gifts set up under the tree, and celebrate. My prayer for you and for me is that we would see CHRISTmas day as a reminder that God has had our backs all along; that His plans are good and that His ways may be unexpected, yet they are glorious. I pray we would see the baby in a manger and not miss the Savior on the cross. That our greatest gift would not be found within the presents or even within the people, but that it would be found in Him and the hope we can have because of His extravagant love for His children. And, for those of us who experience a sense of grief or mourning for all that is not or all that we pictured, may we be found rejoicing the most of all, for we know that He is making all things right all things new. Merry CHRISTmas, dear readers. I am so thankful for each of you.
“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”- Corrie Ten Boom