I must confess to being a little confused right now.
I am sitting on my couch, laptop on top my lap (what an appropriately named device), and the Christmas lights on our tree and balcony are providing my only form of light along with the fireplace crackling on my TV (yes, on my TV). This is my favorite time of year – picking out the tree (and its amazing smell, which is pretty much my favorite smell of all time), decorating, time with family and friends, baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, looking at lights, exchanging gifts, and all the other wonderful seasonal to-do’s – such a fun time!
Ah (sigh of content), Christmas.
So, back to the confusion…What does any of this have to do with Jesus?!
I know there are stories about the Christian roots of Christmas trees (no pun intended), candy canes, and Santa Clause, but I still can’t make the connection in my spirit. Yes I know Saint Nicholas was a real person, but that is not who today’s Santa Claus is. I have caught myself wondering many times, is all of this just a distraction?
This is where my conflict comes, because, as I mentioned, I love this time of year and all that comes with it (minus the whole Santa thing). But I have caught myself being so focused on those things that I have not been pursuing Jesus as I ought. I am doing an advent study and it has been a blessing, but I feel like the time that I have devoted to drawing nearer to the Jesus we celebrate being born on Christmas day, has been significantly less than the time I have given to seasonal festivities. I know that is just a lack of discipline on my part. I’m not saying those things are bad in and of themselves, but they can become a distraction if we are not careful. They can cause us to be so earthly minded that we don’t see the greater majesty of our God becoming a baby – a man – for us.
Let me use a personal story to hopefully do a better job of making my point.
My hardest Christmas was in 2002. Just a month prior, the night before Thanksgiving, my then husband confessed to me that he was having an affair. Despite my offering of forgiveness, he left. Needless to say, that Christmas was like salt on an open wound, with lemon juice poured on top, and anything else that makes it hurt crazy bad!! All the things that would usually make me happy just made me feel more alone. No joke, the song “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you” played 3 times more than any other song on the radio. I did not love that “Christmas.” Everything just reminded me of what I lost. The lights on my tree did not make me feel any better. Nor did any sappy Hallmark movie. Not even a cookie (which usually does the trick for me :)).
Oh (sigh of awe and deep gratitude), but Jesus!!!
The baby in the manger, the man he became, the lamb of God who now sits at the right hand of the Father, that is absolutely where my focus was that Christmas. Nothing else would do. I couldn’t breathe, he gave me breath. He always has obviously, but my dependency on him for such a simple thing as breathing became so much more evident to me in that time! He spoke directly to my hurting heart through his Word and through his Spirit within me. He was more real to me than anything or anybody. He still is. My Immanuel!
How could my hardest “Christmas” have been my truest Christmas? It all depends on how you define Christmas. Is it mainly characterized by trees, shopping, parties, and elves on shelves? Or is it true worship of Immanuel, God with us?! Circumstances may rob you of the picture perfect “Christmas,” but those same circumstances can actually cause you to know and treasure the very one we claim to celebrate Christmas for!
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning those with Christmas trees (hello, I am sitting across from my beautiful noble as we “speak”), who watch Elf (can’t deny that I watch it every year), or who exchange gifts (super excited for my girls to open theirs). I’m just reminding us all, including myself, to not let anything, at any time of the year, keep us from fixing our eyes on Jesus – our savior, author and perfecter of our faith, comforter, wonderful counselor, refuge, help in time of need, sacrifice for our sins, and coming king.
I’m still not sure what having a tree in my living room has to do with Jesus being born -honestly it mostly just reminds me more of fond childhood memories from this time of year – but it is my desire to make him the focus not just of the season, but of my life! How? By daily putting him before all things and by not letting good things trump the best thing.
Will you join me? What will that look like for you?