Driving down the road, the twinkling lights adorn local businesses. There’s an inflatable Santa at one and next door, an inflatable penguin with a Santa hat. Next to it, a large reindeer with a big round nose. A few doors down, gigantic lighted presents underneath a tree painted green. Everywhere you look there are ribbons and glitter and tinsel. It’s as if they’re all shouting out at the world that it’s here again–the Season of Joy! But if truth be told, I feel robbed of that joy because once again I’ve let the hoopla of the Christmas season get to me. My patience has been tested, my energy zapped, and my stress level’s at an all time high.
There’s a disc jockey on the radio and he’s asking listeners to call in and tell what their least favorite Christmas gift has been. And I think this all seems wrong somehow. I see a shopping mall that is packed full of cars and shoppers hustling to find that perfect gift. And I wonder why we seem to have forgotten that we should be celebrating the most miraculous gift of all. The priceless gift that God bestowed on us. His Son. But we’re all crushed under the heaviness of the season’s obligations and we forget to celebrate the real “reason for the season.”
I look around and I wonder how Christmas has turned into this. All this stress and running around and spending way more money than we need to, and having to-do lists a mile long. Christmas seems to be all about shopping and lights, shiny bows and presents, and food. In grocery stores, special cookies and cupcakes are sprinkled merry with green and red, and eggnog and boiled custard make their annual appearance.
I go home and tell my husband that I feel like a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch, all rolled up in one. That I have no Christmas Spirit– that I find myself year after year feeling downtrodden because I have no desire to drag out box after box of Christmas decorations or even decorate a tree. I just want to celebrate and enjoy Thanksgiving before having to even think about Christmas, but I get pulled under. I sigh as I realize another Christmas is slipping by and I haven’t addressed Christmas cards and it’s not going to happen. I sigh again when I realize it’s the third week in Advent and though I had good intentions this year, my Advent wreath is still in a box packed away. It hasn’t found it’s way to to the center of the kitchen table where it usually sits. Because I just haven’t got around to it yet. And somehow, I don’t know why, but that makes me feel like a bad person. I despise shopping in crowded stores with grumpy people and long lines. I don’t like trying to figure out what to get for people and I dislike even more the feeling I have when I end up buying something they probably won’t like and didn’t need. Society somehow tells me I need to do these things and enjoy it. All of it. I tell my husband I just want to crawl in bed, pull up the covers, and hibernate until the New Year.
I loved when my sons were little and we would read the Christmas story every Christmas Eve at bedtime. I so miss reading it to them because I realize it’s me that needs to hear this story every year– the story that never gets old. The story of how the angel visited Mary to announce to her that she would become pregnant with a son who shall be called the Son of God, how the virgin gave birth to the babe in the hay because she and Joseph were turned away by the innkeeper, and how she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger. How the multitude of angels visited the shepherds and told them not to be afraid, then told them about the birth of a Savior, and how the wise men came following a star and when they found the child, they bowed down and offered their gifts to Him.
Why can’t we just celebrate the birth of this babe whose bed was a feed trough for animals? When did this all get so out of hand? It seems all wrong to me– that we’re all giving thanks for presents under a tree when we should be giving thanks for God’s greatest gift of His Son. I should be offering up praise and prayers but instead I’m stressing over getting a mantle decorated and a burned out string of Christmas lights, getting my shopping completed and goodies baked. Every year I get caught up in it all. There’s this crazy need to be some sort of Christmas superwoman and do it all.
It’s on Christmas Eve, usually at the 11 pm Christmas service, when I finally feel a calmness and a stillness that almost can’t be put into words. It’s joy and peace and it’s what I’ve searched for all along these last few weeks. And I sit among greenery and poinsettias in the soft glow of candle light and the love of the season finally penetrates this hardened and rebellious heart. I sing with the choir the familiar songs of Christmas– Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel,and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. But it’s the communion hymn that gets to me every time, when the lights go dim and we sing Silent Night by candle light. That’s when I feel the holiness of Christmas that I’ve yearned for all these weeks. And a tear runs down my cheek and my heart overflows with love and the true Christmas spirit seeps into my very being. Every year I long to feel this calmness-this holy peace and this pure Christmas Joy- long before I do.
Christmas is a time we gather for fellowship with family and friends. It’s a time of laughter and love and sharing memories. It is a time for special food and special songs. It’s a time to realize our blessings and offer praise and thanksgiving for those blessings. But most of all it is a time when we rejoice and offer praises to God for His glorious gift of the Christ Child who came born as a baby in a manger.
Our Savior has come and God’s promises are fulfilled! Let us praise Him this Christmas season and let him be the real reason for our celebrations.