Christmastime for most of us brings lots of excitement and anticipation of some very traditional and specific festivities. Christmas parties, Christmas songs, cookies and candies, buying and receiving gifts, ugly sweaters, Christmas lights, chopping down a Christmas tree, spending time with family and friends, watching your favorite Christmas movies. Most of us can add plenty to this list.
But imagine all of it is stripped away. If you take all the Christmas festivities away, what is left? For most, there is nothing. No gifts? No Christmas tree? What is the point of the holiday?
Most of you who know me or have been following my blog know I lost my dad very quickly to leukemia the end of April. This has turned our family’s world upside down.
What was once my hands-down favorite holiday has quickly proved to be the saddest and hardest. A holiday I’d rather just skip over. I do have moments of happiness, but it is stained by an underlying sadness. (This is also true for the past eight months.) Sometimes the sadness settles deeper in my heart – where it may be less likely to spill over – but it’s always there. Ready to surface with not much cause.
I smile proudly as my five-year-old says to me, “Do you know the best part about Christmas? Because God sent Jesus as a baby!” It sends a twinge of joy straight down into my heart. And then suddenly it’s dashed as my thoughts turn to my dad. During my childhood, we always read the Christmas story first before opening any gifts; the purpose was to not forget the real meaning behind our gift-giving and Christmastime celebration. That was what my parents had strived for – to always keep Jesus’ birth as the emphasis of our celebrating. Oh, how I would love to tell my dad what my son said and to hear his joyful response. But I can’t, and it hurts. And just like that, the sadness threatens to spill over.
As I ponder all this, I realize I can still be grateful. I’ve still participated in all the festivities that I once enjoyed, only to realize that none are the same this year. Christmas is just different now. Since the traditional festivities that once seemed to create a childlike giddiness in me aren’t causing the same happiness, I’ve been trying to find something that will produce the same contentment. But as my mind stripped everything away that once brought me happiness in this season, it left standing the foremost reason for the season:
Jesus’ divine and miraculous birth! This is reason enough to be exceedingly joyful!
The King of king’s humble and perfect birth should be the only purpose for our celebration. Yet we forget. We get so distracted and wrapped up by all the commercialism – the “fun” side of Christmas – that we fail to remember the why and, better yet, the Who we are even celebrating! I admit I am guilty of partying too hard into the commercial side of Christmas sometimes. But this year my grief has caused me to turn my thoughts and heart back to that simple manger.
Jesus wasn’t born into the arms of royalty, but miraculously through the womb of a virgin. His place of birth wasn’t found in a palace fit for a king; there wasn’t even room for Him in the inn. Jesus’ birth was not made known by a ruler in the public eye, but through ordinary shepherds. The wooden makeshift crib held the Son of God, the Immanuel. The One whose coming was foretold for generations. The baby who would someday save the world. And that is why we celebrate Christmas.
Since the fun side of Christmas struggles to entice me, I have gone back to that stable long ago. To the manger that held the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And now the season becomes all about Him, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be!