What Does Your Christmas Look Like?
Often we measure our satisfaction with this holiday using a combination of our past experiences and our present day circumstances. We may be grieving that it won’t be what we want or think we need. We may be rejoicing that it will be better than in the past. We may be trying hard to make the most of it this year without too many hopes or expectations, thoughtfully enjoying it as much as we can.
If I could create an ideal Christmas for me, according to my carnal nature, I would want to spend the season in the early 1940’s, surrounded by the greatest generation in the last one hundred years. Give me people who know sacrifice. Let me be around women who make a small batch of Christmas treats using prized ration coupons for the sugar, praying as they bake for their sons or husbands or brothers off at war. Give me a friend to go to the movies with to watch Holiday Inn or It’s a Wonderful Life. May I spend at least one evening around the piano with family as we sing Christmas carols – and oh, yes – let carolers come to our house! We’ll have hot chocolate all around and a wonderful time together. Let me read in a letter from someone on the front lines that indeed the battles stopped at midnight on Christmas Eve and for a few brief moments enemies became friends and sang hymns of Jesus in harmony with each other.
My carnal nature aside, I’d be more than happy for God to transport me to the night of Jesus’s birth. If I could, I’d be sitting on a hill with those shepherds, looking up in awe at the angel as he spoke to them. Then I’d run like crazy to do as the angel said and go find that baby! I’d be afraid to venture too close, though I’d really want to tiptoe very close and maybe even dare to stroke his tiny brow. I’d probably stay at a distance, half hidden by a rough wooden beam, watching, trying to make sense of the simpleness, the raw human reality of this newborn with his tired mother and a worried Joseph, and how Jesus is really God with us, a baby born in a manger. Let me just stare and be there and soak it all in.
But I’m not there. No more than I’m in the 1940’s. I’m here. Today. Funny how I can’t seem to hold on to today and make it what I want it to be anymore than I can go to the past or even jump into the future. So to what do I hold on?
Two things. The first I’m very certain of and that is truth. I hold on to the truth of the story of Jesus. I celebrate Christmas, as others have for centuries, because the Messiah has come. He has been born, He has died a horrible death and because of the gift of His life I have hope of life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17 -19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.” This life Timothy speaks of is a promise straight from God. It is trustworthy. God’s promises have sustained me (along with millions of others) every day of my life. Even days when I didn’t want to obey His truths, they were still true. Jesus, God with us, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the only way to the one true God.
Secondly, and I say this very carefully because it’s just a feeling and I try to trust in actual facts more than experiences when it comes to God, but there is just something about Christmas, about the entire season, that stirs joy and anticipation and I really don’t think it’s because I was raised with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I think it’s the Holy Spirit at work in us and around us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. In the Old Testament, holy days were remembered and celebrated because God told His people to do so. We have few holy days now, compared to what the Jewish people did and do. But we have this one (and a few others) and I think God is pleased when we truly honor Him during this season. Yes, it’s way too materialistic, yes, it’s way too busy and never quite what we want or need or can hold on to for long. But something happens Christmas morning. Something exciting that says in people all over the world, “This is it! This is Christmas!”
In our family, even if it’s just two of us, we put Him first before we get going with the rest of the day by at least reading the Christmas story from the Bible and praying before opening gifts. Then I usually get distracted by company or traditions or the lack thereof that year but try to remind myself, “This is the day! Treasure it!” By 3:00 or maybe 4:00 in the afternoon, I become aware that the day is waning. It’s almost over. Something has slipped away. I wonder if perhaps I’ve gotten too distracted from the true purpose or meaning of the day. Like it or not, I begin to evaluate the day.
The truth is, no matter what our Christmas may look like, it is just a poor, earthly shadow of what will be someday when Jesus reigns on earth as the King of Kings He truly is. Now that day, that beginning of a thousand years and then eternity with Him, that will be a real celebration! And wouldn’t it be amazing if He tells us the exact day of His birth and we actually get to celebrate it with Him? Now that would be Christmas! What a thought!
“God, thank You for the miracle of Christmas. May we not measure our Christmas seasons by our standards, but by the standards that Jesus set as He grew, and lived and died on this very same earth. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit at work in each one of us, reminding us of how special the birth of Your Son was and is. Help us to find ways to truly honor Jesus through obedience to You. May we do good, be rich in good deeds, be generous and willing to share, all for Your glory. Help us to trust in your promises and keep our eyes on the day we will truly celebrate with You. Amen.”
Merry, Merry Christmas!
by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections Ministries