Things are “coming into place” for the Christmas season.
People are decorating. Shopping. Others are simply “trying.”
I join those people – the ones simply “trying.”
Inner turmoil, trials – unknown and unseen by most, are keeping me from “feeling” Christmas – from “feeling” like decorating – from “feeling” like playing Christmas music.
And I am not alone.
The recently widowed friend writes that she is “trying to get into the Christmas spirit. I’m just not there this year.”
Another person says she just can’t get in the mood yet for Christmas. Perhaps if it snows, she adds, hopefully.
Hopefully. Hopefully we’ll get in the mood.
All the more reason to celebrate Advent – to consider the hope.
As a believer, I can first celebrate the hope that is in me – Christ, the hope of glory:
God has chosen to make known [to me] the glorious riches of this mystery – the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to [us] the saints. This mystery is Christ in me – the hope of glory. (Colossians 1: 26, 27)
Once I begin to contemplate Christ in me, the hope of glory – my hopes rise! Turmoil, trials, loss, lack of snow! – nothing else takes precedence over the birth of Christ “coming into place.”
Believer, it’s all the more reason to celebrate Advent!
Ron and I celebrated Christmas with our family yesterday. Five little ones sat around our small breakfast table; two babies were in their little chairs; and twelve of us sat around my big threshing table. The table was lined with various sizes of clear and blue Ball canning jars, each filled with snow (epsom salts) and tea lights or pine cones and red berries – all on a burlap runner. (Got the idea from Pinterest.) Johnson Bros. “Friendly Village” place settings (a gift from Ron – some years ago) covered the table. The room was filled with tiny white lights on realistic but artificial pine. (One of us is allergic to real pine!) The nativity (collected from our North Woods days) was placed nearby, a ever-present reminder of why we had gathered.
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I prepared a ten-pound boneless beef rib eye roast coated with peppercorns and served with horseradish cream. It was the largest and most tender Christmas roast I’d ever prepared. The potatoes were mashed from those I had dug from my garden late in the fall. Along with the salads and vegetables my girls brought, the dinner was delicious!
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Ron (Papa) prayed; Matilyn, our 13-year-old granddaughter, read the Christmas passage from the Gospel of Luke, and the children (young and old) rejoiced in the gifts that were shared.
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Memories of the day include the “abc” wad of gum I later found stuck on the butter dish, as well as the discovery of the baby crib mattress, taken from a bedroom, which I found in a battered and torn state at the base of the stairway, where two of the children had used it to slide down the stair steps while we adults sat talking in the dining room! Later, when they all went home, shoes and jackets and tiny pieces of toys were left behind, some small gifts remained to be exchanged, and I knew that the day had passed much too fast.
Sounds like the perfect day?
The tree was decorated just a few short days before this party! Not every planned recipe was actually prepared and served. I didn’t take the photos I wanted. (Photos of the canning jars, dishes, and rib eye roast are taken from online!) Some of the family were late; some left early. Our family has struggled with outside forces and trials throughout the last three years.
This Christmas day was not a perfect day, but it was a “turning point” day. It was the first time we were all together in a year; our hearts were joined in love for each other and unity in Christ; so I felt very blessed! It was the end of another difficult year and nearly the beginning of a new, victorious year; so I was also thankful!
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I share my “not so perfect” day because I know that many of you, my readers, have similar Christmas days – or similar Decembers – or perhaps similar, difficult last few years, as we have. Our homes do not look like the photos we see on Pinterest, nor do our lives appear similar to the vibrant postings we read on Facebook!
When I awake on Christmas morning, I think of you women who are alone. My heart aches for you. I think of you who are grieving a recent loss, the pangs of which were replayed in every Christmas carol you heard this season. Things are not always as we want them to be. Our plans do not all come to fruition at the very time we choose. But we can rejoice in our Lord and know that He is faithful all the time and know that what He tells us in His word will be accomplished!
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There will be another Christmas in the future – perhaps I’ll get a chance to take some photos. Maybe we’ll have a bit more time to relax with each other as a family. Perhaps you won’t be alone next Christmas. For some of you, another year will buffer the intensity of the grief you now so heavily bear.
Let’s speak and believe the word together – the same words spoken by Elizabeth when she met Mary. Let these words remind us that we are and will continue to be blessed:
“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”
Believing that someone cares SO much that he wants to bring you a gift. (Seems to strengthen the heart toward loving God, the one who cares SO much that he gave the gift of Jesus.)
Kids laugh and sing at Christmas.
They anticipate the school party and Christmas morning.
Kids are excited to see a gift added under the tree.
They love decorating cookies,
They want snow.
Yes, Christmas is for kids.
Christmas is for adults wanting to be kids.
Wanting to give and receive.
Remembering Christmases past.
Tearing up when we hear, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” or “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”
Understanding theimportance of “heavenly peace.”
It’s a time when we actually look at strangers and say, “Merry Christmas.”
Yes, Christmas is for adults wanting to be kids!
Christmas is for the believer!
Knowing redemption through the sacrifice, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we then contemplate the birth of our Lord and realize how Holy the season really is!
The King’s humble birth. In a manger.
The King’s perfect birth. He had to be born of a virgin; otherwise, he wouldn’t be the perfect lamb of God – the spotless lamb. And we see that little baby for who He really is – the Savior of the world – the one who saves us!
Yes, Christmas is for the believer!
But most of all, Christmas is for the unbeliever, the one who does not yet know Christ as Lord.
After all, this is why Jesus came. This is why He was born to a virgin. He was God in the flesh. He came for us!
We who need Immanuel — “God with us.”
He came for us!
We who are lost in our sin and need a Savior.
He came for us!
We who are blemished and could never offer a spotless lamb of sacrifice.
He came for us!
So, this Christmas is for you, the unbeliever. If you have not yet believed with your heart and confessed with your mouth (prayer) the Lord Jesus, let this be the Christmas season that you become a Christian, a believer of the “little Lord Jesus” who “lay down His sweet head” and later lay down His life for you.
Christmas is God’s gift – Jesus!
He is the good news!
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.. . For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. . . We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah)
When I was a little girl, Christmas was fun! And Christmas was filled with joy!
I remember hearing sleigh bells ringing outside our house in the dark of night. I saw Santa’s sleigh tracks in the middle of the front yard where he had landed his heavy sleigh and reindeer.
Early Christmas morning, we three kids woke early, wrapped ourselves in warm bathrobes, and quietly stepped down each step of the big stairway to our living room where we were welcomed by the brightly lit tree, enveloped with big, cone-shaped electric bulbs of red, blue, green, orange, and white. Sleepy Mommy and Daddy met us by the tree and then made that moment and the balance of our day so special! They imbedded each fun tradition with the true meaning of Christmas.
Many years later, when I was the young mother of little children, Christmas was fun! And Christmas was filled with joy!
Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk the children had set out. On Christmas Eve, their Daddy read the Christmas story from his Bible. Matt, Kristen, and Amber slept in their warm flannels and fleece, on the floor, their heads on pillows under the tree lights. They never heard Santa place the Detroit Lions football helmet, the Cabbage Patch dolls, the 4-wheeler Big Foot, or the Care Bears under the tree, just inches from their sweet, sleeping bodies. One Christmas, when Daddy was out of work and the money was scarce, he made a 4-wheeler track for Matt and a horse stable for the girls. Those gifts were appreciate just as much or more than the store-bought gifts. Every Christmas was fun and filled with joy!
But after the children were grown and moved away, Christmas was not as much fun any more. And Christmas was not filled with as much joy.
Family gatherings, once a vital part of the season, now had empty chairs, once held by special grandpas, grandmas, aunts, or uncles. Songs and carols, once heard on the old, blonde 78-rpm player, and later on the cassette tape or CD, now brought a lump to my throat and an emptiness to my heart. Now Christmas was funonly for the brief time the children came home. And now Christmas was joyonly when I forced myself to find it.
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But then, in that loneliness, I began to take God at His Word and depend fully upon Him and upon His faithfulness! I learned to rejoice in the Lord always! (Philippians 4:4)
In the Word, I found a connection between joy and strength. I could be strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness! (Colossians 1:11)
Strengthened . . . with joyfulness! Exactly what I needed!
I also read, the joy of the Lord is our strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)
So now, during the Christmas season, I find the joy that the Lord promises, and I let it strengthen me!
I find joy in remembering my father and mother and others who are gone. I cherish the legacy they left me.
I find joy in the arms of my faithful husband.
I find joy in my grown children who love and honor God.
I find joy in my eleven beautiful grandchildren.
And I find joy in a God who loves me and who grants me unmerited grace, increasing faith, and abundant hope through this year.
During the Christmas season, I will sing, “Joy to the world!”
finding joy that “The Lord is come!”
I will “receive” my “King!”
and “prepare Him room” in my heart,
and I will fill that room with the joy He promises in His Word!