Awaken Our Hearts, Equip our Minds

Finding Joy in the Joyous time of the Year

“Are you serious? Who doesn’t like Christmas?” asked my incredulous husband, the man who sings Christmas Carols in his sleep the day after Thanksgiving.  My brain was already in overdrive thinking about everything I needed to accomplish over the holidays.  “I never said I didn’t like Christmas; it just isn’t my favorite time of year because there’s too much pressure involved.”

You see, I have spent many a Christmas morning in tears.  Not tears flowing from overwhelming love and gratitude, but tears from disappointment, from feeling let down.

Like most all other celebrations, the anticipation is far more exciting than the reality.  I play out scenarios of the event in my mind, imagining the best possible outcome, and get myself completely “psyched” up. Thus, when the event actually transpires, I’m usually disappointed because instead finding joy in the moment, I critique and compare it to the preconceived notion I had in my head, and rarely do they match up.  Christmas time only exacerbates the situation, bringing out the worst in me.

The Christmas before I married was a difficult holiday season, mostly because I acted like a spoiled, sullen adolescent, which worried my future husband, so he put it to me this way:  “You always want more.   Okay, so we get married, then what?  Kids?  Then what?  What will it take to make you happy, to simply be happy with what you’ve been given?  Why can’t you just enjoy the holiday for what it is?  Why do you have to make everything into an over-the-top-affair?”

Ouch.  His words ripped open a deep tear in the fabric of my heart that I thought I had mended years before.

Last year I asked the Lord to help me to really enjoy the Christmas season. I vowed  to soak in this magical time with my girls, to relish friends and family with whom we celebrate and to thank God for giving us the greatest gift ever, His only son, Jesus.  Through daily prayer and submission of my will to focus my attention on the true meaning of Christmas, God revealed something new to me in the Christmas story, which I heard so many times before.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”                                            Matthew 2:5-11

The Son of God was born in a stable, probably surrounded by livestock, to parents who had no distinct social standing.  No wonder the Jews had such a hard time believing that He was the Messiah, the one sent to save them. They had suffered much and looked for a leader who was powerful and mighty, one who would deliver them from Roman oppression, so they rejected Jesus of Nazareth as their Savior.  Born in a stable, a carpenter’s son, a friend of fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes — he was in no way royal-like, and because of that, they rejected Him and demanded that He be crucified as the ultimate imposter, “The King of the Jews.”

Jesus did not rule from a throne in a royal palace surrounded by servants, guards and opulence.  The Creator wanted to show His created that His own son was like us in every way, except without sin.  Christ came to serve, to seek and to save, but for reasons and in a manner far beyond anything the Jews ever imagined or understood.  And because He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, ONLY Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, can deliver mankind by paying our sin debt through the shedding of His blood.

Good thing I am not like those Jewish people back in the day; they really missed out on the greatest gift ever because they expected one thing but received another.

Oh, wait.  Isn’t that what I do every time the holidays don’t go the way I planned?  Do I not completely fall apart when the gift I meticulously selected is not well received or more than half of those invited to my Christmas party don’t attend?   And because we are late, we missed the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree.  Great — now Christmas is ruined!

Don’t miss celebrating the real meaning of Christmas because you’re blinded by the bright lights of the holidays or like me, so wrapped up in the worldly magic of the season that you ignore the heavenly miracle of Christ’s birth.

My sincere hope is that you find your joy this holiday season in God’s plan of redemption — that gift in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago.  Read the Christmas story again, and let the significance of that seemly insignificant event penetrate your heart the way the fresh baked Christmas cookies ignite your taste buds.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[ being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” Philippians 2:5-11                                                                               

Merry Christmas!

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