I started to write a little ditty about my shopping experience this past Saturday. Mind you, the Saturday that happened to be a week and a half before Christmas. (What were we thinking?) I worked it and played with it and it actually made me laugh. Maybe because I know what a nightmare it was but still…humor is good and I may post it anyway. But, as I looked at it and tried to tie it up in some witty little bow I realized that those weren’t the words that I wanted to say about Christmas. What I wanted to say is,
How are you?
Is Christmas difficult? Is it stressful because of the crazy schedule? Maybe the insanity of our materialism has sucked the meaning and joy right out of it? Perhaps someone you love is missing this year, or has been for a while, and you still can’t approach the holidays without grief rearing its’ head again? Maybe it’s difficult because life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would, because you’re struggling with a sickness or the loss of a relationship, because you’ve made a mess of your life and don’t know how to start rebuilding it, because you can’t pay the bills or because you just feel hopeless and alone. If that’s the case, you might be closer to experiencing the truth of Christmas than most. It seems to show up in the cold, dark places of life where we never thought we would end up. Sort of like a dirty stable where a young girl gave birth to a child. A child that embodied light, life and hope.
God with us.
Sometimes, our reality is that life is hard and we just can’t seem to get it together. I think that’s where the beauty of Christmas is found. Not in big dinners or presents under a tree but in the fact that God became flesh and lived among us. He understands all the pain that we suffer. His goodness is not only found in the blessings that we have but, perhaps to a greater extent, in his kindness to come and save us from the darkness.
From our sin. From our loneliness. From ourselves.
When our flesh overwhelms our love for Him and we’re afraid that he can’t forgive again. When we allow our past to defeat us and we wonder if we will ever have freedom from the guilt. When we can’t stand the loneliness but don’t know where to turn. When our heart is broken into tiny pieces and there seems to be no hope of putting it back together again.
That’s when the gift of Christmas is at its’ most beautiful. Jesus forgives. He sets us free. He dwells with us and loves us. He heals and He brings life to what is dead.
There is one secret to receiving that gift though.
You have to offer one as well. The gift of yourself.
Jesus asks one thing – that we make an exchange. Our life for His.
I’ll tell you a secret. We get the best end of that deal and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Over and over. 365 days of the year. Even when we mess up. Even when we’re lost. Even when we don’t know how to find Him, He can find us. That’s the meaning of Christmas.
I hope you discover how precious that gift is this season and I hope it changes everything about this coming year. It would be wonderful if everyone could answer my question with a joyful, “I’m great!” but I know that isn’t the case. I could tell from the looks on the faces of the people I passed in the mall last week. But I also know there is a love that’s greater than any present we could buy and a hope that’s brighter than any Christmas tree. Unwrap it.
You aren’t alone. God is with us.