Christmas time is a hard time of year.
I love buying gifts for people and I love spending time with family and friends, but overall I really struggle during the Christmas season. As much as we’ve tried to establish traditions over the years – doing certain things or eating particular foods at certain times – there’s just no denying the fact that nothing stays the same. I feel like the holidays can be a time when life’s changes actually become more magnified.
The absence of the happy-go-lucky grandpa who passed away 15 months ago, the aging grandparents who aren’t able to travel anymore, Children who are grown and have plans elsewhere, the dear friend who is facing her first Christmas without her husband of 48 1/2 years, weary mom-friends who are working so hard to push through every day and be faithful to their calling — all of these things seem to be even more painfully obvious during the season that we have put so much effort into, desperate to establish the familiar.
“If you are suffering this Christmas, you have far more in common with Jesus than the comfortable and contented.” ~Vaneeth Rendall Risner (Desiring God Ministries)
This year I am quietly entering the Christmas season. The realities of life will cause me to move through the holiday season soberly. The idealistic picture of Christmas that used to hang in the back of my mind has blown away with the winds of change. Somewhere along the way I became tired of fighting to make it something it can never really be.
When my children were young, I focused on three things during the holidays:
- Making sure they knew that Christmas is about the birth of Christ
- Establishing family traditions
- Making memories
I worked hard, at times exhausting myself. I tried to open my little one’s eyes to truths that only God can make real in their heart. Time has taught me that, although they may have some fun Christmas memories, what truly makes a lasting impact is the day in and day out living that was done within the walls of our home.
There is a knowing that comes with years of living. One year building on the next. God slowly opening our eyes to truth. Sobering us. Allowing us to experience the joy and pain of change. If Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, then it’s okay that all the hype during the holidays becomes somewhat meaningless. Its okay to enter quietly and feel the sadness of the realities and the changes that have taken place. The losses, deaths, sickness, and suffering that are present are merely reminders of why we so desperately need a Savior. Of why Jesus was born in the first place.
“The Thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices!”
The birth of Jesus is a celebration of hope — but I am weary! The world is weary!
“Fall on your knees…”
I begin this Christmas season feeling weary because of the changes, and I plan on spending a lot of time on my knees fighting the battle in my heart and mind. I have been crying out to Him with a heavy heart fighting to see things from His perspective. Just the other day God flooded my mind with these thoughts:
Christ was born for one purpose: To die for the sins of people who rebelled because they thought God and his plan wasn’t enough. They wanted more.
Christ spent his life reaching out to the lost, making disciples, and preparing to die. I am reminded again that I can choose to live like Jesus did by living one day at a time, reaching out to whoever God chooses to put in my path, and by whatever means He chooses to allow me to be used. Writing. Texting. Over coffee. At the grocery store. It’s not about me being happy, satisfied, or following my dreams. It’s about me being available to Him and being willing to be used. However He chooses to do that. For His purposes, not my own.
When I reflect back over the past few years it can seem like God has often been silent. Much of the time I have to fight for joy. After persevering, fighting for joy, and clinging to God for survival, I am finding that He is growing a new kind of joy in my heart. A joy that is not dependent on my circumstances, job, or others approval and acceptance. A joy that is present amidst life’s changes. A joy that only God can grow.
I think it must grow best in the dark.
It must grow best in the seasons when we feel lost or like God has forgotten us. Then one day you notice that it’s there. Joy. And it can’t be snuffed out by anything. Yes. There has been a lot of loss and change, but there has been so much GAIN. The kind of gain that cannot be taken away. The Christmas season can be a struggle because the stark realities of life don’t take a holiday break! There are days I have to fight for joy, but it’s there. I just need to focus on the reason He came.
And wearily rejoice that He was born.
“My brethren, count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees…