I’ve been listening to Christmas music all day every day since my birthday, the first week of November. My Christmas tree has been up since November 25th. I’ve made more Christmas cookies than I have ever made before. Most of my gifts were purchased by October. My children’s handprints have been imbedded in salt dough ornaments and hanging on our tree for weeks. I brought my 2 year old to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights up in Duluth to embrace the community tradition. I brought her to the Dollar Store to choose a special gift for her daddy all by herself, which she wrapped and gave him with excitement that could not be contained.
We’ve attended every advent service, helped with the Christmas for Kids program, and read stories about the birth of our Savior.
I have made numerous efforts to bring the magic of Christmas to our family. I have been longing to feel overcome with the joy of the season. But it just has not been what I hoped.
Lately I have been repeatedly drawn into conversations with and heard stories about the broken hearted. There are so many whose joy is tainted this season.
Think of those in our military celebrating without their families by their side.
There are those striving to embrace the joy despite the loss of a loved one, this year or any year, whose memory changes what Christmas had been when they were still with us.
Those struggling with loneliness, depression, sickness, broken personal relationships, hurtful exchanges replaying in their thoughts, or misunderstandings that have caused far more damage than they should have, are not having the Christmas they might have hoped.
As I’ve listened to, heard, and read stories of those struggling this Christmas I have spent a great deal of time contemplating how little joy I see in just the birth of our Savior.
This tiny, innocent, baby boy was ripped from his home in paradise and sentenced to 33 years of being misunderstood, hated, hunted, beaten, mocked, and ultimately killed to save us from each other, from ourselves, from the sin that plagues us all.
The joy of Christmas is not in the arrival of our Savior here on this earth, but in the reason that He came.
Christmas without Easter is not a happy story.
It is the birth of our Savior with the steadfast purpose of the resurrection that brings us a joy beyond compare.
No Christmas on this earth will be perfect. Every season will be plagued with varying degrees of disappointment and despair. Each of us has countless imperfections. We have hurt others and been hurt by others. The reason we are overcome with true joy lies in the hope of heaven, given by and through a God who forgave so much. This forgiveness was enacted through an incredible act of love, the humbling and sacrifice of his own Son.
There is nothing I can do to bring true joy to myself or my family this Christmas. Whether you’re feeling broken hearted or not, there is a very real joy that is yours this Christmas. It is not the warmth and happiness that may swell up in you with the spirit of the season, but the security of your salvation despite all the suffering you will face in this world.
As you sing carols, give and unwrap gifts, and enjoy every sight, sound, and taste of Christmas, I urge you to remember the real reason for the true and deep-seated joy that we have. Your sins have been forgiven, and your home in heaven secured. That baby boy who laid in a manger came because of the same sin that robs us of the joy of the season, but his purpose and perfection secured a deeper joy that cannot be taken away.
As you celebrate, remember that joy, and find it in your heart to reach out to the broken hearted, grant forgiveness you’ve been withholding, and imitate the love of your Savior who humbled himself to give us, his undeserving children, true and unrelenting joy.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We wish you a very merry and joyous Christmas!