For some reason, our society (I include myself in that as a chief participant) tries to manufacture a sense of "magic" during the Christmas season - a Hallmark Movie/Card emotional reaction to things we make up and have convinced ourselves are the best part of Christmas. We create a sense of anticipation around what is under the tree and what we will unwrap on Christmas morning. And when the anticipation reaches it crescendo, we laugh and take pictures and video at 4 a.m. as our children/grandchildren or other special people in our lives tear through gift after gift. But when all of the candy is eaten, the stockings are laid flat across the room, and the wrapping paper is stuffed into a giant garbage bag, we feel as empty as the space under the tree. And here's why--even the largest gifts, the most beautiful wrapping paper, and the excited frenzy of those moments don't give us a glimpse into the real wonder of Christmas.
Now, don't get me wrong. If you love Santa, give gifts, and cherish the child-like moments of Christmas, I am not trying to heap guilt on your head. I have been where you are, and I am not claiming to have the answer to the best way to celebrate Christmas. But what I can share is my experience. We like to build gingerbread houses, bake Christmas cookies, decorate our tree, and put out our Dickens Christmas Village set. We enjoy watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and drinking hot chocolate together while singing Christmas carols. These are some of our family traditions, and we continued them this year. However, we began some new "purposeful" Christmas activities and made a point to center our wonder upon the love of God come down, the Christ who put on human flesh because God loved us and didn't want to leave us in our state of sin and despair.
And here's what we learned: the manufactured magic never stacks up against the awestruck wonder of knowing that the God whose very breath was breathed into Adam, who created galaxy upon galaxy and set the stars in the heavens, that same God who is bigger and greater and mightier than all of the stars in the Universe, that He put on flesh and became one of us. We who live on this tiny dot of a planet in this small solar system, in a galaxy on the edge of the vast Universe, we became the beneficiaries of His wondrous love and amazing grace, the recipients of the presence of infinite God come to finite man. And the wonder of that tiny baby who was the God of the Universe and the King of Kings never diminishes. Christmas may come and go, but the wonder of the Christ who we celebrate remains with us each day when we know that the baby born among the animals in a barn in Bethlehem became our Savior on the cross and our Risen Lord, whose presence can still be known to us when we experience the grace and love of Immanuel, God with us. That wonder brings hope the day after Christmas and the day after that and all of our days.
This year, while focusing on the wonder of His presence, we didn't just see Christmas as Jesus' birthday, but considered what that should mean in our lives -- do we give each other huge gifts on someone else's birthday or do we give the honoree gifts? And how does it look to give gifts to Jesus? Many people have blogged much more eloquently about these questions and the answers they have discovered for their families, but I know that the orphan, the widow, the lonely, the sick, the vulnerable, are near to God's heart as shown in countless scriptures. One verse I discovered this year is Proverbs 19:17 "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord..." Even though our family has experienced some great difficulty in the area of job and finances this year, we are still wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world. So, it became clear to us that God was leading us to give as he led to those who are in great need. There is such joy in giving, not just out of abundance, but out of need. And God blesses and uses even the smallest gifts given out of obedience to Him.
So, the joy and wonder we experienced this Christmas and are still experiencing today are wrapped up in the love of God, the gift of Himself and His presence. Advent traditions for year may be over, but Advent is alive and well as we rejoice that He has come and will come again.
May this New Year bring to you the wonder and joy of knowing God in the person of Jesus Christ and experiencing His presence through His Spirit living in you!
Loving, Learning, Rejoicing, and Longing for His coming again,